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Dwarskersbos: Municipal investigation into actions by municipal officers finalised

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit today supported members of the community in the municipal investigation into the misbehaviour of among others Jerome Pedro and Tertius Pool, traffic officers of the Bergrivier Municipality, as well as Adv. Hanlie Linde, the Municipal Manager.

During the proceedings, Ludwig Gericke, his wife, Mari Gericke, and other members of the community testified about incidents in which traffic officers had been involved and abused their powers. Adv. Etienne Vermaak acted as Chairperson of the investigation, as the Municipal Council had appointed him to facilitate investigations into any misbehaviour by municipal officers. Adv. Vermaak will now consider the testimonies and thereafter send his findings and recommendations to the Municipal Council for further action.

Authorities in the area had permitted Dwarskersbos residents during lockdown to walk on this part of the beach – where Ludwig was arrested – because residents would otherwise have had to walk next to a national road. According to Ludwig, Pedro had said, however, that he disagreed with the decision that Capt. Predon Ackeer, Station Commander, had taken in this regard.

Gericke and his wife – as well as eyewitnesses Ilze and Dirk Visser – testified that Pool, in the incident in which the Gericke couple was involved, had said to Mari that he could not understand why people like them were allowed to have children. Both Pedro and Pool also told Ludwig that he shouldn’t use his 10-month-old baby (who was tied to him in a pouch) as mitigation. Mari testified that she had tried to explain to the traffic officer that their family had been on their way home after she and her daughter had bought a few necessities at the shop. She also testified that the incident had left her children in tears and hysterical.

Ludwig testified that Adv. Linde’s findings in the initial municipal investigation, as well as statements she had made about the incident, had left him unnerved and humiliated. The municipality initially facilitated its own investigation into Perdo and Pool, and found that nothing had been wrong with their actions. After Ludwig’s arrest, Linde also made derogatory remarks in her private blog about the Gericke family. According to Ludwig, the whole incident had left him and his family alienated from the community and place in which they had decided to invest and settle themselves. Mari also testified that the Municipal Council had not yet contacted her or Ludwig to hear their version of the incident.

Other victims of Pedro and Pool’s alleged power abuses testified how their disrespectful and unprofessional actions had traumatised the victims and made them felt like criminals.

“Although we support the process, we remain concerned that many months passed since the Municipal Manager’s public conviction of the Gericke family. The Municipal Council and the Mayor only reacted after we intervened in the incident. We will not allow quick and bias investigations to absolve officers,” says Adv. Gerrie Nel, Head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.

The Unit succeeded yesterday in convincing the state to withdraw charges against five Dwarskersbos community members for the alleged violation of lockdown regulations.

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