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Virginia Keppler, Beeld
Pretoria – Four matriculants, three from Waterkloof High and one from Garsfontein High who were arrested at the weekend in connection with an assault, were released on Saturday afternoon, within thirty minutes of the alleged intervention of General Bheki Cele, national chief of police.
Three of the boys, all 18, were released on bail while the 17-year-old boy was released into his parents’ care.
The pupils were partying at a venue on the corner of Rubenstein and Witdoring avenues in Moreleta Park, Pretoria, on Friday night when they were arrested by members from the Garsfontein police, after having allegedly assaulted a young man.
Hennie de Beer, a friend of one of the boys’ fathers, told Beeld on Sunday the families and their lawyers spent all of Saturday struggling to get the boys released on bail.
He said at the police station a policeman sat in a cell with the boys, taking statements, for the whole day.
De Beer accused the policeman in question of racism and said he had abused his power. He said the policeman said in Sesotho: “I’ll show these white thugs who’s in charge of the police station.”
“I understand Sotho and can also speak it well, and I heard him say that,” De Beer said.
“One of the president’s (Jacob Zuma’s) brothers is a friend of mine, so I phoned him. He gave me General Bheki Cele’s number.
“I called the general immediately and he was very helpful. He said I should pass the phone to the relevant policeman. But the policeman said he didn’t believe Cele is on the phone, and refused to speak to him. He said if it really is the general, he should drive to the police station.”
De Beer once again spoke to Cele, who promised to send someone to the police station to sort out the problem.
According to De Beer, General Arno Lamoer, head of visible policing, arrived at the police station shortly thereafter.
“General Lamoer spoke with the policeman in question and within half-an-hour from the time I phoned general Cele, the boys were released on R1 000 bail each.
“General Lamoer was very professional and apologised. He took up the case with the station commander.
“I told General Cele I would gladly go to war with him any day because of his attitude. I’m glad someone like him is in charge of the country’s policing. He really is there to serve the community,” said De Beer.
Lindela Mashigo, police spokesperson, said on Sunday the police had received a complaint that the boys had allegedly been mistreated while in police custody.
“After the investigating officer in the case had spoken to the boys, he used his own discretion to release them on bail. There was absolutely no interference from any of the police’s top management,” said Mashigo.