Mandy Wiener27 July 2023 | 4:30

MANDY WIENER: We must applaud (and protect) the eyewitness who did not look away

The motorist who filmed VIP protection officers meting out abuse is being threatened, but she/he deserves a national order.

MANDY WIENER: We must applaud (and protect) the eyewitness who did not look away

FILE: A screengrab from a video showing members of the police’s presidential protection unit assaulting three civilians on the N1 near Fourways in Johannesburg. Picture: Twitter


Active citizenship can manifest in multiple ways – social responsibility, charitable work, political involvement and more.

It can also be demonstrated by an individual choosing to pick up their cellphone and hitting record when they see an injustice unfolding before them.

This week eight VIP protection police officers, attached to Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s detail, were arrested and criminally charged for allegedly assaulting motorists in broad daylight on a busy highway.

The conduct of the VIP unit is notoriously brazen, with blatant disregard for accountability. They have an air of being above the law.

It is no stretch of the imagination to assume that there have been countless other incidents just like the one that was captured on cellphone video and went viral. This was evidently not the first time they had behaved in such a way.

However, this one time, a brave citizen rallied the courage to record the incident and share it with a popular social media user who posted it on their platform.

This week the state prosecutor in the matter told the Randburg Magistrate’s Court that the person who captured the assault is now living in fear.

According to reports, prosecutor advocate Elize le Roux - who was reading the affidavit of the investigating officer - said the witness has been receiving threatening text messages from a burner number.

We have to applaud the courage of that eyewitness who chose not to look the other way. They made a conscious decision to record the video and then share it so it would be made public. Were it not for them, there would no doubt be many other such incidents in the future.

This is the power of the citizen journalist in the age of the electronic device. Every single person with a smartphone can be a reporter. But it is more than just the device that enables this. It also requires a sense of patriotism, of values, of ethics, of justice, of doing the right thing and of ensuring the law is upheld.

In a separate incident this week, a substitute teacher at Crawford International College in Pretoria was filmed writing offensive words on a whiteboard. The video shows several children with their cellphones up capturing the same image. In this era of social media, it is a very visible demonstration of how empowered those children felt to be able to hold someone in authority to account.

The video emerged on Monday afternoon and the 82-year-old substitute teacher was dismissed by the school that same evening.

This is to a lesser degree reminiscent of the powerful impact of the video recorded by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier in Minneapolis of George Floyd’s murder by former police officer Derek Chauvin.

By capturing that video, she was able to elevate the murder to a global level.

In an Instagram post on the first anniversary of Floyd’s death, Frazier acknowledged her role in capturing the event.

"Even though this was a traumatic life-changing experience for me, I'm proud of myself. If it weren't for my video, the world wouldn't have known the truth. I own that. My video didn't save George Floyd, but it put his murderer away and off the streets," said Frazier.

But she also described how she was "no longer safe" and lived in hotels while "looking over our back every day in the process." Reporters routinely knocked on her door, she said. The trauma made Frazier "shake so bad at night my mom had to rock me to sleep."

We should celebrate and reward these courageous citizen journalists who have the courage to capture the moment and bring it to our attention. That motorist who filmed the VIP protection officers meting out abuse on citizens deserves a national order and all the plaudits that accompany it.