Video: Diplomatic incident! South African cyclist manhandled by occupants of diplomat's car could face charges

Footage shows rider being forced to ground following road rage incident - but police en case against him

by Simon_MacMichael   May 14, 2013  

South Africa diplomat road rage YouTube still

South Africa’s diplomatic police unit has opened a case against a cyclist involved in an altercation with occupants of a black Mercedes-Benz saloon carrying a foreign diplomat, despite video footage that shows the rider being forced to the ground and manhandled by men, including one believed to be a bodyguard of the vehicle’s occupant.

According to News24, the cyclist, Hein van der Merwe, is accused by the driver of the vehicle, one SR Khoza, of the offences of crimen injuria [used in cases including ones relating to road rage, it is defined as “unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another”] and intimidation.

The incident took place in Pretoria, the country’s executive and administrative capital and therefore home to foreign embassies, last Wednesday, although as yet the cyclist appears to have been unable to establish the nationality of the diplomat involved, whom he describes as “a Caucasian with a darkish skin, thick black hair, and a thickish dark black beard.”

In a comprehensive account of his version of events to the news website eNCA, the cyclist says that the vehicle ignored a stop sign and cut across him while he was out on a training ride, leading him to try and attract the driver’s attention, first by shouting as he rode alongside the vehicle, then by banging on its wing mirror.

At that point, he says, the driver attempted to swerve into him – the cyclist claims that the driver himself later told him that this was on the instructions of the diplomat in the vehicle – and later threatened to brake his neck after the vehicle stopped.

He adds that the diplomat – whom he says was asked by a police officer why he had not been driven straight to his embassy, as required by diplomatic protocol – “directly threatened me and told me I was going to go to jail and that he will see to it.”

The cyclist took photographs of the vehicle, which carried diplomatic plates, as well as one of the diplomat himself. Spotted doing this by a bodyguard, he says the driver then knocked his phone out of his hand, breaking the screen, and that he was assaulted by the bodyguard, the point at which the video, taken by a schoolboy who was at the scene, kicks in.

The incident was attended by officers from the diplomatic police unit, summoned by the diplomat or his driver, who Mr van der Merwe said were “rude and arrogant” and, after taking his details, “drove off as of nothing happened.”

He added that he went to a police station to report the incident and open his own case, but was told that officers there were unable to assist them and he needed to go to police headquarters instead due to the involvement of the diplomatic police and foreign diplomats.

News24 says that it has been unable to secure a comment regarding the incident from the South African Police Service communications department that has responsibility for the diplomatic unit.

12 user comments

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Another case of abuse of power.

3 Guys assault a lone cyclist and attempt to use a car as a lethal weapon.
Should be arrested for dangerous driving, assault and also for trying to stop the guy leaving.

Problem is that the diplomat will talk to police who are told to ignore it.

Always remember, road cleats make you unbalanced and therefore even more vulnerable

posted by LegalFun [8 posts]
14th May 2013 - 18:43


In updated news, the South African authorities (International Relations Department) are sending a letter to the Iraqi Embassy to query why they have "disrespected" the laws of the receiving or host country.

Edit: MTB cleats FTW.

posted by Argos74 [301 posts]
14th May 2013 - 19:03


I bought road cleats and went to a cafe in a farm-shop. The gravel got stuck in the cleats and when I tried to carry my coffee to a table I nearly fell over!
Wouldn't want to get in a fight in them!

It's good to see that news report. Hopefully they will take it seriously.
I would hope that the British Police would help out if that happened over here.

posted by LegalFun [8 posts]
14th May 2013 - 19:30


Mental, would be interesting to see how this goes cos of the "diplo immunity" etc.

London2Paris24: 450km, 24 hours, 5th-6th July 2014

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koko56's picture

posted by koko56 [334 posts]
14th May 2013 - 19:45


Break his neck ( not brake) - bloody cyclists

richdirector's picture

posted by richdirector [54 posts]
14th May 2013 - 22:59


Dimplomatic immunity!

Sorry, couldn't resist Wink

posted by bashthebox [647 posts]
15th May 2013 - 7:27


Did his neck have disc or caliper brakes? How often do journalists (or sub editors) fail to notice the difference between break and brake?

Tovarishch's picture

posted by Tovarishch [49 posts]
15th May 2013 - 8:07


Probably 'lucky' to just be put to the ground! Some of these guards can be quite proactive in safety matters!

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

posted by themartincox [376 posts]
15th May 2013 - 8:58


So the rider did nothing wrong but the law has appeared to closed ranks on them? Wow, just wow.

posted by northstar [1109 posts]
15th May 2013 - 10:04


Another reason not to go to South Africa

Luminosity's picture

posted by Luminosity [73 posts]
15th May 2013 - 12:51


LegalFun wrote:

I would hope that the British Police would help out if that happened over here.

The case of Police Officer Yvonne Fletcher (shot dead by a Libyan Diplomat who was never brought to account) would suggest otherwise. The Police (everywhere) have limited powers to deal with Embassy Officials.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
15th May 2013 - 13:15


I think the big story here was that no-one was shot. This is South Africa.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [262 posts]
15th May 2013 - 13:31