Premier Must Investigate Assault Allegations Against MEC

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The DA condemns, in the strongest terms, the allegations that the MEC for community safety, security and liaison, Mr Vusi Shongwe, witnessed and ordered police assaults on civilians, and demands that the premier, Mr David Mabuza, investigate the allegations, and suspend Shongwe from duty during this time.

Media reports today allege that charges of assault had been laid with the Tonga Police Station against Shongwe and members of the police’s Tactical Response Team (TRT), after Shongwe allegedly ordered TRT members to assault protestors near Komatipoort on Wednesday. It is also alleged that MEC Shongwe watched while the assaults took place and others humiliated by having to do push-ups while police threatened them.

The DA welcomes the fact that the case had been referred to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), but is concerned that police spokesperson, Colonel Leonard Hlathi admitted to the charges being laid, but only against certain police officials, and does not include MEC Shongwe’s name.

The DA takes note of MEC Shongwe’s spokesperson denying the allegations, that: “The MEC didn’t assault anyone, he also has no authority to even tell police to assault or command them to arrest anyone.” However, due to the potential harm the case may hold for the provincial government, the DA believes that the Office of the Premier must launch its own investigation into MEC Shongwe’s alleged behaviour.

To this end, the DA will request the premier, Mr David Mabuza, to establish whether MEC Shongwe may have acted beyond his mandate by issuing such instructions. The DA will also ask the premier to investigate the manner in which MEC Shongwe increasingly regards himself as a commanding officer of both the police and the Traffic Department. The Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison has the mandate of performing civilian oversight of law enforcement agencies, and has not authority to command and control.

Due to the sensitivity of the issue and in the interests of transparency, the DA will also formally request premier Mabuza to suspend MEC Shongwe from his duties as Member of the Executive Council, until both investigations have been concluded.

While not ideal, the premier also has the right to exercise his constitutional mandate (which he delights in when dodging oversight), to reshuffle his cabinet, and provide the province with a new safety and security MEC.

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