Trial of Malebe-Thema on charges of crimen injuriafinally gets underway

A case against a senior member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) that has been dragging on for seven years finally got underway in the Thembalethu Regional Court, near George in the Western Cape. Major-General Sandra Malebe-Thema is accused of crimen injuria, for allegedly humiliating and mocking several white police officers at the Oudtshoorn police training college. She pleaded not guilty when the matter was called last Tuesday – 7 November.

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit has a watching brief on behalf of Riana Stander (formerly Viviers), the complainant in this case, and attended the court proceedings. Stander, who is a former police training officer, started testifying on Tuesday about the incident that occurred in November 2016. She has since left the police service ranked as a captain with 27 years of experience.

She recalled how staff at the college had been called to a hall where they were met by managers and Malebe-Thema. She testified that the accused asked all the trainers in the room to stand up, before saying she did not like what she saw. Stander says Malebe-Thema then said that she and the others standing did not want to adhere to transformation, adding “you are too white”. Stander told the court that this created the impression that she and the others were racist. The accused went on to falsely suggest that the training officers were provided with posts that are better paying while black staff are employed at positions with lower pay.

Stander further testified that later that day, she and other staff were instructed to return to the hall and were called on to stage in front of about 450 police students. She told the court how Malebe-Thema reprimanded her and the others in front of the cheering students. She said at one point, Malebe-Thema criticised her clothing and told her, “look at you, you are fat, how can you look at yourself.”

Stander testified that she was crying and felt belittled in front of the students, and that she was judged on her looks and not her abilities as a police trainer. Captain Ronel Blignaut, who has 30 years of service in the SAPS, and former police trainer Tanya Kennedy confirmed the evidence of Stander when they were called to testify. Kennedy, a 37 year veteran of the SAPS, described how she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the public humiliation received at the hands of Malebe-Thema. “I was made to feel like a whore at an auction,” she told the court. Evidence was led until Thursday last week.

Barry Bateman, spokesperson for the unit, says it should never have taken this long for the case to start. “It was only after the intervention of the Private Prosecution Unit that this case was enrolled and seemingly reluctantly brought to a stage where the matter was ready to be prosecuted. Whether you are a constable or a general, you should stand equally before the law. Malebe-Thema is no different, so we are glad this case is finally being put to her and she will now have to answer for it.

“These dedicated policewomen suffered immense humiliation allegedly at the hands of Malebe-Thema. Although the wheels of justice turn way too slowly, we will continue to monitor the matter to ensure that justice is done,” said Bateman.

The case has been postponed to 25 June 2024.

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