South Africa’s social climate has left women and children living in a perpetually vulnerable state to the extent that safety isn’t a guarantee, even when dealing with law enforcement officers – both real and fake.
The growing scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in the country has included several incidents involving law enforcement officers – those entrusted with protecting members of society.
News24 earlier reported that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) arrested a 45-year-old police sergeant on Monday after he was accused of raping an 18-year-old woman while on a church outing in Westbank, East London.
In February, a high-ranking Cape Town police officer was accused of raping a woman he allegedly threatened to arrest for sex work. In addition, the close of women’s month saw the murder of boxing champion Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels who was shot and killed by her estranged boyfriend – a police officer.
This festive season, women and children will inevitably be on the roads, where the police have heightened their visibility.
As women living in South Africa these are your rights:
A traffic officer has the legal right to stop you and check your car registration as well as your driver’s licence. According to Johannesburg Metro Police Department spokesperson Wayne Minnaar, both male and female traffic officers have the right to stop you day or night. Women are encouraged to comply with the officers and stop and remain inside their vehicle but immediately request to see an appointment card.
“If they do not have an appointment card then they are not an officer, I would suggest that you call for help immediately,” he explained.
Social media has seen several incidents of women driving alone at night, opting to stop at the nearest garage or visible location while being pulled over by the police.
A recent incident in Tshwane saw a woman allegedly being manhandled by a number of Tshwane Metro Police Department officers at a petrol station in Lyttleton. The woman feared the cops were not real and did not to pull over. She instead opted to drive to a nearby petrol station, where the officers proceeded to allegedly manhandle her.
In incidents of this nature, Minnaar could not clarify whether – in light of this country’s social climate of violence against women and children – this action was justifiable or not.
“Look, it’s about obeying the rules of the road and that is for everyone – male or female.
“Officers may apply their discretion in these situations, but an officer can stop you legally,” he explained.
Women must remember the following if a police stop escalates to a search:
A male or female officer is permitted to stop you and request your driver’s licence and car registration.
If you are pulled over and the officer decides to undertake a search, only a female officer is permitted to proceed with such an action.
If a female officer is not present, the motorist must request the male officer to call a female officer (with an appointment card) to the scene then the action may proceed.
The absence of a female officer does not mean that you may be let go.
If you feel your safety is compromised, a female motorist is allowed to remain in the vehicle until a female officer arrives at the scene.
It is up to you to report a case to the police if you find an officer operating without an appointment card.
A female motorist is also afforded the right to call for help when her safety is at risk.
“It is up to you as an individual to report the case to the police station. It is easy to verify an officer through an appointment card. If the officer evades that, you can take the van’s vehicle registration number,” acting station commander Nalini Singh previously told News24.
Sources: Wayne Minnaar (JMPD) and Nalini Singh (KZN acting station commander)