Open letter to Vetus Schola

  • First, a group of neighbours and Vetus Schola guard had detained a young man, allegedly for stealing a laptop out of the open window of a Main Road business
  • The man was in tight plastic cuffs, face down on the ground; everyone was waiting for the owner of the laptop to arrive to determine if she would lay charges. Some made gestures – pretending they were about to kick him – not actually making contact. Instead of containing the situation and creating clear rules, the guard would make jokes – “no but why don’t you actually do it”.
  • The laptop owner was taking a while to arrive and people lost interest and went back to their days. The guard started instructing the man to “roll” – like an army seargent – “roll, roll, roll” in the dirt. I asked him what was going on – he said I must not worry, the others will be here soon.
  • Very quickly, the owner of the laptop arrived. The guard said that because she was a woman, he would encourage her not to lay a charge – attending all of those court cases would be unpleasant for her. If it was her husband he would suggest differently. It was unclear what would happen to the young man if she opted not to lay a charge – all I can say is “The vibe was not good”. (I was torn at this point. I am very aware that even a short jail sentence can ruin a young person’s life, or enroll them in much harder criminal activities. However, we would only know if this young man was already wanted on other crimes if he is taken in). Myself and another neighbour suggested to the women that she should work within the law and ensure that at the very least his finger prints are taken, and the crime is recorded on the official stats for the area (to be honest, I am still uncertain about this in terms of his chances of rehabilitation or enrollment into harder crime).
  • Things seemed to have “settled down” so I went inside. Within minutes, there was screaming again.
  • I came outside to see that everyone had gone, and another (unbranded) vehicle had arrived and driven right up next to the man – he had been screaming for fear of being run over (photo below – the only photo I took).
  • The man in the vehicle waved at me as if to say everything is fine. I stood and watched making my presence known – both the man in the car and the Vetus Schola guard were on their phones at this time.
  • After the car drove away, it was only the guard and myself left, and a gardening service crew working across the road.
  • The guard lit a cigarette and paced around the detained man and said “you’re lucky I have a nurse here”.
  • He then asked the gardening service for a rake. He asked one of the gardeners to help him “comb the detained man’s hair” with the rake. The gardener refused, but handed him the rake.
  • He took the rake onto the detained man’s shirt and as he did this I yelled something along the lines of “you are not allowd to do this – you are allowed to detain him, you do not have the right to assault or to humiliate him” (I think I repeated this a few times, until he dropped the rake).
  • At this point things shifted, and the guard attempted to loosen the plastic cuffs, but did not have the right tools on him to do so. I asked him to apologise – he apologised first to me, I corrected him that he needed to apologise to the young man and he did “I’m sorry bhuti”.
  • I asked if the young man could sit up instead of lying face down in sandy grass (I was worried if he could actually breath, and the guard himself was worried about dust and flies – but was about to cover the mans face with a shirt)– he agreed and allowed the young man to sit up. (I feel ashamed that I did not demand this sooner – this entire time the young man had been lying face down in the dirt).
  • I asked him what he had wanted to do with the rake – he said he had wanted to tear the man’s Tshirt up a bit while questioning him about some other thefts. I asked him what the “roll, roll, roll” earlier was about – he said it was to move the young man into the shade. (I wonder if he forgot that this young man has two legs, and is capable of standing up and walking to the shade?)
  • At this point SAPS arrived.
  • The guard started defending himself to me – he said that the only thing different between him and the detainee was their race, that there are poor white people who do not steal, that he has a coloured wife so he can’t be racist, and that his black co-workers respect him. I responded that I found this very strange – I had not mentioned race at all that day – I had had an issue with the treatment of this young man, but if he is bringing up race it makes me believe that race played into his decisions in some way.
  • I explained to SAPS that I had been dissatisfied with the treatment of the young man, and that neither private security nor SAPS have the right to assualt or hummilaite detainees. SAPS did not ask me for any more details.
  • SAPS loaded the young man into their vehicle and removed the plastic handcuffs and proceeded to get detailed of the laptop theft case from the guard.
  • I thanked the guard for at least having heard me out and stopping his behaviour when I’d asked him to, and thanked the police officers for their arrival.

Vigilante South Africa

Additionally, it is a form of lawlessness on its own. While the “original” crime was theft, the “secondary” crime is violence. Which one introduces more trauma into society?





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