Wednesday, July 28, 2004

South African: Boy "too dark to be South African"

A 15-year-old boy was nearly booted out of the country because police thought he was "too dark" to be South African.

Police hauled Shane Mhaule off a 25-seater bus at a routine roadblock at Belfast in Mpumalanga last Tuesday.

"They took one look at me and said I was too dark to be South African," Shane said.

He had also spoken to the officers in English, so they made him speak in his vernacular, which is Shangaan - a language that is also spoken in Mozambique.

The cops insisted he was Mozambican and ignored his pleas to call his school principal and mother to vouch for him.

[...] Shane was then bundled into a police van, driven to the Belfast police station and locked up with 24 adult men - in violation of laws protecting children.

[... the next day ...] The whole family clubbed together to hire a car and race 120km to the Nelspruit police station - only to be told they needed Home Affairs approval before Shane could be released.

But a Home Affairs official said the office was closed and that they should return the next day.

The official eventually relented when the family called in local journalists, leading to a tearful reunion on the steps of the Nelspruit police station.1

1: Hlatshwayo, Riot. (2004, July 28). Boy 'too dark to be South African'. The Star.