Times SELECT 09 July 2019
Five senior coloured and white Western Cape detectives are at the centre of a WhatsApp race battle after sending slurs and photographs of gorillas and monkeys, with two of their colleagues’ names attached.
The detectives – who are all stationed at the Khayelitsha police station – were charged with crimen injuria and defamation of character on Monday.
The case, which has been raised with the office of the provincial police commissioner, stems from a series of messages sent out on a WhatsApp group used by the detective branch’s officers on Friday, June 28.
Several of the phones used by officers on the “Cid offisiere” WhatsApp group are state-issued.
The two detectives, one of whom is black and the other coloured, learned of the comments from a colleague when they reported for duty on Monday, July 1.
The SA Police Union (Sapu) has taken up the case, helping the two detectives lay complaints with the Western Cape police commissioner.
One of the detectives who were the targets of the remarks spoke to Times Select with their Sapu representative. They said they found out about the comments when a colleague approached them after they had finished their morning parade.
Asking not to be named, the detective said: “My colleague showed me the chat, which was on an official state phone, which was from three days before. The WhatsApp group is for all officers in the
branch. The officers hold the rank of captain, lieutenant-colonels and colonels.”
The detective claimed the chats contained remarks and pictures comparing them to gorillas and monkeys. Screenshots of the messages were sent to Times Select.
“The comments were made in regards to my birthday, and a colleague saying people must send me good wishes.
“The conversation was in Afrikaans. One of the officers was upset and wrote back, and said can someone wish this c**t a happy birthday because he seems very lonely. When one of the officers asked who he was referring to he replied that he was talking about me.
“A colonel wrote that if she had been my mother she would have aborted me after giving birth to me.”
The detective said the officers also spoke about his other colleague and how they needed to be careful if they touched her hair because it was like a grater and they could cut themselves.
“One of them said there could be things hiding in her hair and put a photo of a monkey comparing it to her.
“These chats went on for about three hours. You could see that they all thought it was a big joke and were laughing on the group.”
The detective said they were furious.
“This is totally wrong. Not one of them, who all know about our complaints, have come to us to apologise.”
The chats, said Sapu’s Western Cape secretary Graham Daniels, were “abhorrent”.
“In the chats, one of the officers asked why his mother did not abort him before giving birth to him.”
Daniels said in reference to an incident where one of the offending officers had touched the hair of a black female detective, an image of a monkey was sent out with comments that the officer who touched his colleague’s hair must have badly cut his hands.
He confirmed the union had assisted the two members to lay a complaint with the provincial police commissioner and open criminals charges.
“The complaint and charges have been laid against five officers who are coloured and white.”
He said incidents like that showed racism was alive within the police.
Daniels said the union was pushing for the officers to be suspended and removed from both the police station and the community.
“We will closely monitor the progress for both these cases so that we do not leave any room for a cover-up. Sapu is also considering taking this matter to the Equality Court and the South African Human Rights Commission for further action.
“All people belong to the human race. The notion of a superior race is a fallacy.”
Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said the matter was under investigation, both criminally and departmentally.
“Internal matters between the employee and the employer are, however, not disclosed.”