A Cape Town man who evaded arrest on his bicycle during a protest at Muizenberg beach earlier this month has been charged and plans to defend his actions in court.
In an interview with News24, Dr David Gwynne-Evans, whose escape went viral after it was captured on video, has told of the police chase which followed, how he was later charged – and how he plans to defend himself against the charges.
Gwynne-Evans is a resident of Muizenberg, and is a botanist, a field in which he holds a doctorate.
On 5 May, he was voicing his opposition to alleged police heavy-handedness, including the arrest of protesters for allegedly not wearing proper personal protection equipment (PPE).
He had cycled to the beach during the level 4 exercise rules, and had been speaking to journalists, with his placards, when police attempted to arrest him.
“I had felt the need to protest the extreme measures by police that have been taking place. There were a number of people who came to me, and told me about a number of atrocities, being committed by police. I felt the need to speak out about it,” he said.
Gwynne-Evans had believed he was protesting safely, legally and respectfully. So when police officers were instructed to arrest him, he decided to escape, he told News24.
“I was not willing to be thrown in a van – in stark violation of the health recommendations around social distancing,” he said, claiming some police were not following the Covid-19 lockdown rules.
He clambered onto his bicycle, and rode off into the side-streets behind Muizenberg’s famous “Surfers’ Corner” coffee and surf shops.
Police officers gave chase, and the ensuing pursuit was captured on video by News24, up to a main intersection, where police appeared to have lost the trail, only picking up his cellphone.
Gwynne-Evans confirmed that he evaded both a police motorcyclist and police van. But he later visited the Muizenberg police station to retrieve his cellphone.
There, he was charged for “leaving place of residence without reason”, under the Disaster Management Act, and for staging an illegal protest.
He told News24 he would defend himself in court.
“I will be telling the court that the Constitution gives me the right to protest. But, more than that, it gives me the right to live a full life.”
He said that, with some police being allegedly overly heavy-handed – and actually compromising people’s safety – it was unconscionable.
He would argue that the Constitution “is the supreme law of the land” and that the Disaster Management Act was “inferior” to the Constitution, and protected South African’s rights. In the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, certain rights were “non-derogable” – meaning they could never be overruled or taken away.
“We have these incredible rights, which have been hard fought for, through the Constitution. There are a lot of incredible police doing amazing work – to make our lives better, to make our lives safer. And then there are just a few police who are over-extending themselves, over-reaching themselves, and breaking the law, as a result.”
He is due to appear in court on 6 August.