Brazil goes nuts after SA cops 'assault' its envoy
The Brazilian Embassy demands answers after its agent was allegedly denied his rights when stopped at a roadblock
The Embassy of the Federative Republic of Brazil has called for an urgent meeting with the “highest possible level of authority” of SA after one its agents was allegedly assaulted by Johannesburg Metro Police Division (JMPD) officers.
The person concerned, a Brazilian Embassy agent, was transporting other senior Brazilian dignitaries when they were stopped at 11.30pm at a roadblock near Midrand on the N1 on June 26.
According to a letter sent to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), written and signed on June 29, the agent was pulled out of the vehicle, put in the back of a police truck and driven to a clinic where his blood samples were allegedly taken “without his consent”.
Now the Brazilian Embassy wants an explanation from the South African authorities on why its agent was detained, and diplomatic immunity protocol seemingly ignored.
The agent was allegedly prevented from speaking to the diplomatic police attaché, his embassy and Dirco officers.
“The Embassy of Brazil has immediately requested an urgent meeting in the highest possible level with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to demand explanations and a thorough investigation of the facts in such a manner that the agents responsible for the acts of aggression and disrespect against the Brazilian Diplomatic Agent be held duly accountable,” said the embassy.
On the day of the alleged incident, the agent was taking a Brazilian delegation back to their Midrand hotel after they attended the SA International Trade Exhibition. The fair is a hub for trade development in Africa, and was a precursor to the Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA (Brics) summit held in Sandton.
It is alleged that JMPD officers stopped the vehicle and asked for a driver’s licence. The driver apparently produced a Dirco identity card and his Brazilian driver’s licence, which were later confiscated by the officers.
“He was asked to step out of his vehicle and was taken to the back of the police vehicle, where he was told that the presumed offence is punishable with a R5,000 fine or prison,” read the document. Apparently the officer then allegedly said “he can release the agent upon immediate payment”.
Just after midnight, the driver was taken to a clinic where he was allegedly kept in isolation before blood samples were taken from him. He wanted it to be done in the presence of officials from the embassy or Dirco, the letter stated, but his request was denied.
His car, containing three other Brazilian delegates, was driven by another police officer to the Bramley police station. “In an embarrassing manner, some police officers punched him twice and to avoid further harm, he allowed them to take his blood samples against his will,” read the document.
When police from the embassy and diplomatic staff arrived at the clinic from where the blood was taken, they were allegedly denied entry. The Brazilian Embassy said this was “regrettable”.
JMPD’s Wayne Minnaar said officers who misbehave must be reported to their internal affairs unit. “Any member who is corrupt or misbehaves must be reported to our offices where disciplinary action will be taken against them. Those officials should report this to us immediately,” said Minnaar.
A source within the embassy said the agent wanted to speak to Dirco officials because he did not trust the JMPD officials.
“He was just careful as it was in the middle of the night and didn’t know what those guys could do to him. His fear was proved right as he was not allowed making phone calls ... only when he was in the back of the police truck could he make those calls,” said the source.
“We feared for the worst as most of the police holding cells are overcrowded and if it was possible to release him on fine, it was okay. But not to bribe officers on the street, that is against the law,” said the source.
Asked if the driver was drunk at the time, the source referred back to the statement made to Dirco. “We would not say, but read what you’ve got and understand what happened there,” he said.
Eventually the embassy managed to contact Dirco, which later sent Diplomatic police, and just before 3am, the agent’s driver’s licence and Dirco ID card were handed back to him.
Brazilian Embassy spokesperson Gustavo Carneiro would not comment on matters involving its staff. “All matters pertaining to diplomatic privileges and immunities are dealt with directly between the embassy and Dirco,” he said.
Dirco is yet to respond to queries on the matter.