Rescue Care charge Durban metro police with kidnapping

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A Rescue Care logo. Rescue Care is a privately owned Durban-based emergency medical service.

DURBAN - Rescue Care laid charges against three Durban Metro police officers and two officials from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) on Wednesday night, after their ambulance was searched, medics kidnapped and harassed while trying to attend to an emergency call.

Speaking to African News Agency (ANA) on Thursday morning, Rescue Care attorney Wesley Rogers called the situation “absurd” and said charges were laid at Durban Central station after the two medics were held “for four or five hours”.

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A statement released by the privately owned emergency medical service early on Thursday said the incident unfolded on Wednesday night when the medics were made aware of an incident in Isipingo and rushed to the scene.

Unbeknownst to them, there was a sting operation in progress.

“[The medics] arrived to find that the accident had in fact been staged by members of the eThekwini Metro Police and officials [from ICASA] as part of what we understand was an unauthorised operation,”

“Our ambulance was searched without a warrant or reason to believe it was involved in the commission of a crime, our staff were ostensibly kidnapped and had their phones taken from them. They were harassed and pilloried by officers of the eThekwini Metro police.

“It remains unclear to us exactly what these officials were searching for. Nothing illicit was found in our ambulance, and our staff were not charged, although they were waylaid for an extended period,” said the statement.

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Rogers said the kidnapping charge related to the medics being restrained from freedom of movement. “They received another call while they were waiting there and were told they could not leave to attend to the call,” he said.

Rogers claims the medics were detained “for four or five hours” at the police station and “there were about nine metro officers trying to deal with this”.

“This entire incident took about five or six hours and from the outset there were ICASA officials and state vehicles involved. This is a massive waste of state resources,” he said.

The criminal case against the Metro Police officers and ICASA officials will include contravention of section 28 of the criminal procedure act [unlawful search], kidnapping, unauthorised borrowing, cybercrime, crimen injuria and impersonating a police officer.

“Our primary focus is the preservation of life and our business is conducted in line with all relevant legislation and within the ambit of the law. Holding our medics for no conceivable reason, forcing them to go to the police station and confiscating their cell phones could have had dire consequences had they been prevented from attending to an emergency,” said the statement. 

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However, the Durban Metropolitan Police Service said it had not yet received any official complaint.

"I can confirm a joint sting operation was held at the request of ICSA with tow trucks and ambulances monitoring police radio channels and arriving &39;uncalled&39; to scenes of accidents," said Parboo Sewpersad, the Senior Superintendent based at the metro police headquarters.

Rogers could not be drawn on the crimne injuria case, but said that “disparaging comments” were made to one of the medics.