Johannesburg - An eyewitness captured the moment a road user is shoved by a Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officer at the entrance to the Mall of Africa in Midrand, outside Pretoria.
Facebook user, Carmen Bell, filmed an altercation involving several officers and a motorist on Tuesday (March 15).
Bell said: "So I took this video this morning at the entrance to the Mall of Africa. As I rummaged through my bag to get my phone out, these JMPD members had already punched, pushed and kicked this person to the floor and the tall metro cop was hitting and kicking him on the ground.
"From the video you see how they physically assaulted this person after he refused to be arrested for not having number plates."
The Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) said: "The latest video depicting JMPD officers abusing a motorist to go viral acutely demonstrates the urgent need for proper training and discipline which exists in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department."
JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar said: "An investigation is underway by JMPD Internal Affairs Unit with regards to the video. A statement is needed from the motorist who is involved in the squabble."
Watch the video below:
Click here for more information regarding the video
'We can handle any situation'
Following the video, Bell posted on Facebook: "Wayne Minnaar has made contact to investigate what happened today and I salute him for this. He has stood up for the position he holds and I look forward to seeing this incident addressed. It goes to show that social media is a powerful tool and that if all South Africans work together, we can handle any situation."
Know your rights
Wheels24 spoke to Arrive Alive and JPSA regarding the incident. What does the law say about driving without number plates? What should you do when confronted with aggressive police officers? We answer these questions and more below:
What does the law say about driving/riding without number plates?
Arrive Alive said: "All vehicles must be licensed, whether on a public road or not. As soon as a vehicle has been licensed, the owner of the motor vehicle must ensure that a licence plate has been affixed to the vehicle in the required manner irrespective of usage, that is, public road or not.
"You may not use a motor vehicle on a public road if the licence plate on the vehicle does not apply to the vehicle itself or where the licence plate is obscured or illegal except where the obscurity or illegality is temporary and was caused by something that the owner had no control over.
"It is clear that the law places an obligation on the owner of a motor vehicle to ensure that the motor vehicle is properly licensed and that the licence plate is displayed accordingly. Failure to do this will mean that the owner is in breach of the National Road Traffic Act and therefore committing an illegal act, which will lead to the owner of the motor vehicle / driver to be fined accordingly. However, should the owner/motorist be able to show that the temporary obscurity/illegality was beyond his control then he or she might be able to escape liability.
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What if you've purchased a new, unlicensed vehicle?
Arrive Alive: "Please note that where a motorist has bought a vehicle and needs to have it delivered to the prospective owner, the owner will have a temporary permit issued in his favour so that the vehicle may be used on a public road prior to registration. Please note that a temporary permit is valid for a period of 21 days only."
More unlawful actions filmed
JPSA has reported on several 'unlawful actions' which took place in the clip. The organisation also sheds light on the legalities of number plates in South Africa.
JPSA said: "Quite aside from the assault which took place on video, several other unlawful actions are apparent in this video.
"Firstly, a number plate is clearly visible on the rear of the bakkie (pick-up), thus meaning that the motorist failed to display one of the two number plates a vehicle other than a motorcycle or trailer is required to display.
"This is defined as an infringement in terms of charge code 1210 in Schedule 3 of the AARTO Regulations and prescribes a fine of R500 (R250 if paid within 32 days) to be issued on an infringement notice. The arrest of the motorist and impound of such a vehicle is strictly unlawful in these circumstances.
"The charge code 1211 'failed to affix both number plates of a vehicle thereto' which the metro policeman can be heard mentioning, albeit being terribly badly worded in Schedule 3 means 'failed to display any number plates' on a vehicle requiring two number plates and is defined as an offence for which one can be arrested and brought before a court to stand trial for that criminal offence."
Click here to read the JPSA's full response
Motorist Carmen Bell filmed an altercation between a motorist and JMPD officials outside the Mall of Africa in Midrand. Image: Carmen Bell via Facebook
What if an officer is being aggressive? What should you do?
Arrive Alive said: "We need to be non-confrontational and avoid physical contact or abusive language at all times. Just as a traffic officers should not be shoving a citizen around, road users should also refrain from laying a hand on traffic officers or using any abusive language. We are pleased to see that the situation has calmed down after the initial physical confrontation. Be respectful to traffic officers just as traffic officers should be respectful to road users in a professional manner in which the need to execute their powers."
Read: Rights and obligations when stopped by a traffic officer
JPSA adds: "It is rare for the JMPD to do anything in the absence of a formal complaint from the motorist concerned and its management and spokespersons are all too often extremely quick to jump to the defence of the indefensible actions of abusive so-called 'officers' who see fit to act as thugs and drag all of their colleagues into the stereotypical views that the public holds that all metro police are little more than criminals in uniform."
Do you have the right to film a police officer?
Arrive Alive: "Yes, you can film a traffic officer. The Right to Know campaign has excellent material regarding the legalities of filming officers in South Africa."
SAPS standing Order 156:
• An officer cannot stop you from taking a photo or video.
• An officer cannot seize/damage your equipment. An officer cannot force you to delete footage.
Click on the tweet below for a more in-depth view of your rights with regards to filming officers.