AfriForum’s private prosecutions unit led by Adv Gerrie Nel is investigating the recent incident of unfair and arbitrary behaviour by traffic officers at Dwarskersbos. The unit is assisting Ludwig Gericke, who was arrested and manhandled on 9 May 2020 in front of his wife and young children by two traffic officers at Dwarskersbos for allegedly having contravened the lockdown regulations.
Gericke was arrested in front of his wife and three-year-old daughter while his baby of 10 months was still in a carry bag strapped to his body. The family went for a walk between 06:00 and 09:00 during the level 4 lockdown. Authorities in the area had given permission for residents of Dwarskersbos to walk on this part of the beach where Gericke was arrested.
Gericke’s wife, Mari, and their daughter went to a local shop to buy some necessities, and during this time the traffic officers tried to arrest him. According to Gericke, a traffic officer came charging at him, alleging that he was contravening the lockdown regulations. Gericke told him that he was waiting for his wife to return from the shop and that the family would then immediately go home. The officer manhandled Gericke and tried to force him to the officer’s car. During this time Gericke’s wife and daughter came out of the shop and saw what was happening. Mari managed to take the baby from him before Gericke was arrested and taken to the Laaiplek police station.
According to Gericke the traffic officers refused to adjust his handcuffs – that were extremely tight – and told him that they would make an example of him. Gericke also was told that he and “these people” thought they were above the law.
“We are seeing increasing numbers of incidents where law enforcers abuse so-called contraventions of the regulations as an excuse to turn ordinary, law-abiding people into criminals. The focus is not only on the issue of whether the officers were acting in terms of the law, but also on the way they treat members of the public – who, like everybody, are caught up in the abnormal circumstances of the lockdown – in the performance of their duties. Treating someone like a criminal simply because he was walking on the beach (where he believed he was entitled to walk) is irrational and a violation of Gericke’s rights,” says Natasha Venter, campaign manager at AfriForum.
The private prosecution unit is investigating other similar incidents of abuse of power by peace officers and law enforcers in the country. One such incident took place in Ballito when peace officers of the KwaDukuza municipality tried to arrest, among others, a four-year-old child.