Pubdate: Sun, 24 Feb 2008
Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)
Copyright: 2008 Cape Argus.
Page 5
Author: Clayton Barnes


An evening out on the town ended in a nightmare for four friends in 
central Cape Town after police and security guards insisted on 
searching their vehicle for drugs.

Police claimed one of the group was a "known Cape Town drug dealer" 
when, in fact, he is a mathematical specialist for a Johannesburg 
banking group.

Ted Powers, a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York, 
accused the police of racial profiling, claiming the only reason they 
had been targeted was that two of the four were white and two were 
black with dreadlocks.

'The scourge of racial profiling is evident in South Africa' Speaking 
on behalf of the four, Powers said that last Friday they had walked 
from Long Street, where they had had a few drinks, to their car, 
parked in Bree Street. Security guards from G4S Security surrounded 
his vehicle and demanded they stand aside while the car was searched.

Powers said when he refused, the security guards started harassing 
them and calling them drug dealers.

"When we asked why we'd been stopped, no answer was given," said Powers.

"Our continued requests for clarification were evaded by the security officers.

"They insisted on searching my car without giving any reasons. I 
stated quite forcefully that they could not search my car as they did 
not have jurisdiction to do so. At this point the security called the 
police who accused my friend, a mathematical specialist, of being a 
known drug dealer in Cape Town."

Powers said the police told them that either they would have to 
consent to having the car searched, or they would be taken to Caledon Square.

"As a foreigner, I was unsure how a night in the cells would affect 
me and decided to voluntarily have the car searched.

"After searching for an hour, they left and told us we were lucky."

Nothing illegal was found in the car.

Powers told Weekend Argus he was shocked at being treated with 
"complete disrespect" by the police.

"The reason we were targeted as either drug dealers or individuals 
involved in purchasing drugs was because some of us were black and 
others white. Two of my friends are black with dreadlocks, while my 
other friend and I are white with 'normal' hair.

"The assumption is that the only reason why we would socialise with 
black people is that we are accessing illegal substances.

"The scourge of racial profiling is evident in South Africa, but not 
unique to this country as this situation manifests itself differently 
in the United States where non-whites are often profiled by police."

In a letter to the Weekend Argus, Powers said his rights had been 
violated. "Traffic was blocked on Bree Street for nearly an hour 
while I was detained by the private security firm.

"I am not sure how this situation was supposed to have been handled 
according to police protocol, but the way in which the accusations 
were hurled at my friend, indicated that the critical juridical 
principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' is merely words on a 
piece of paper.

"I drove away from the incident thinking the same of this country's 

G4S Cape's senior operations manager Koos van Deventer said the 
company would investigate the allegations. It would interview the 
security officers allegedly responsible and review surveillance 
camera footage of the incident.

"We will release the findings of our investigation and take whatever 
action is deemed necessary."

Police spokesperson Superintendent Andre Traut said the incident was 
regrettable and unfortunate as it involved visitors to the city.

"It is equally regrettable that the matter was not immediately 
reported to the station commissioner of Cape Town Central for a full 
investigation," said Traut.

"If substantiated, the police will not hesitate to take appropriate 
action against members responsible, and for failing to deliver a 
professional service.

"Had this route been followed, I am convinced the complainants in 
this matter would by now have enjoyed a satisfactory response to 
their unpleasant experience with the police.

"We are mandated by the Criminal Procedure Act to police our 
communities. However, the execution of our duties must at all times 
be in accordance with our code of conduct.

"We are committed to root out crime, but also committed to service delivery."

Spokesperson for the South African Human Rights Commission, Vincent 
Moaga, said the reported actions of the security guards and police 
were in defiance of the values of human dignity, equality and non-racialism.

"Issues of discrimination in its various forms are of serious concern 
to the commission.

"Based on what we read in the media and also some of the complaints 
we receive it is clear that discrimination is still a major problem 
in our country.

"Anyone experiencing any form of discrimination can approach the 
Commission or the equality court. In terms of the act you don't need 
a lawyer to approach the equality court as the service is free and 
much faster than other courts."
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