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Friday, 12 November 2010

Race row over cop picture (South Africa)

A row has broken out over a “fake” photograph of three black women police officers apparently asleep in the  Mitchells Plain charge office – and the man believed to have taken the picture could face charges of crimen injuria and defamation.

The picture has also focused attention on claims of racism by a group of senior coloured police officers at the station who are accused of using Afrikaans to exclude black officers from being employed there.

The Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (Popcru) claims the officers – a constable and two trainees – were told by an inspector to pose for the picture last week.

“After he finished taking the picture, he laughed and told the three he would expose them in the media,” said Popcru provincial chairman Francisco Fields.

The inspector is believed to be related to DA councillor Grant Pascoe, who at the weekend posted the picture on his Facebook page, which elicited angry responses.

Pascoe has insisted the picture was not “doctored” as earlier claimed by Mitchells Plain police cluster commander Jeremy Veary.

One of the responses to Pascoe’s Facebook page was from the DA’s spokesperson on the police, Diane Kohler Barnard, who commented: “OMG – It’s like Zuma’s three wives at the opening of Parliament”.

Pascoe is one of the candidates to succeed Cape Town mayor Dan Plato after next year’s local government elections should the DA retain control of the city.

Fields said yesterday that all three women had been traumatised, as the picture was published in the Sunday Times and later in other newspapers, and that they would file cases of crimen injuria and defamation against the inspector.

Western Cape police spokesman Billy Jones said no one at the station had been charged for any departmental or criminal offence.

“We are investigating the whole matter. We cannot predict when the investigation will be concluded, but the outcome will determine the course of action,” said Jones.

According to one officer at the station, the picture has exposed an undercurrent of racism at the station from a group of long-serving, mostly coloured, officers who have resisted the employment of “outsiders”.

At a public meeting in August with senior police officers and former community safety MEC Lennit Max, the issue of “service delivery”, specifically Afrikaans proficiency of officers stationed at the charge office, was raised.

Max said yesterday that his reply to the issue was one of inclusivity.

“What I said was that the police should cater for all languages. I said that they had to cater for the majority languages in specific areas, Afrikaans being the case in Mitchells Plain,” said Max.

This response, according to senior black police officer, at the station “emboldened” a group of coloured officers to resist the employment of black police officers at the station on the grounds that they could not speak or write Afrikaans.

Pascoe said yesterday he would not reveal the source of the picture, insisting it had nothing to do with racism.

“They (Popcru) can come with the allegations. I’m not going to reveal my sources. They’ve not proven anything, they’re making wild allegations,” said Pascoe. But he admitted two of his uncles worked at the Mitchells Plain police station, a fact he said was well known in the area.

Pascoe said allegations of racism at the station were a “sideshow” used as a convenient excuse to deflect issues of service delivery there.

“Most of people in Mitch-ells Plain speak Afrikaans. What is racist about all languages being protected in our constitution?” asked Pascoe.

He called on police to investigate Veary for claiming the three officers weren’t working at the station.

Veary insisted he only said the three women were not on duty on Thursday night last week when the picture was purportedly taken.

“The police investigation must determine if the picture was set up. I was accused of doctoring a picture, which is false,” Pascoe said. He said he had hired the services of forensic scientist David Klatzow.

But Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairman Ismail Chotia slammed Pascoe, saying he hardly attended public meetings on policing in the area.

“I don’t go to CPF meetings. It’s a futile exercise. They’ve killed off neighbourhood watches and instead started street committees,” Pascoe said.

Former community safety MEC Patrick McKenzie (ANC) said it would be “regrettable” if the picture was found to be staged. “I would have expected much better from someone like Pascoe who wants to lead the DA. He should have checked his facts.”

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