July 8, 2011 / 3:05 PM / 6 years ago

Guards over-react to middle finger

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma’s elite guards overstepped their authority when they arrested and roughed up a student who they thought made an obscene hand gesture, a government commission said on Thursday.

Chumani Maxwele was arrested by guards brandishing assault rifles who jumped out of a luxury sedan after the University of Cape Town student gestured at siren-blaring vehicles that nearly ran him over while he was jogging, witnesses told local media.

“The SA Human Rights Commission has found that members of the Presidential Special Protection Unit have violated the rights of Mr Chumani Maxwele,” the commission said of the February 2010 incident.

“Members of the unit arrested and detained Mr Maxwele for allegedly gesturing with his middle finger at a convoy of police vehicles,” it said.

Maxwele told media he kept his middle finger under control and was waving at the convoy to move on. He also said he was assaulted by the guards who told him he had disrespected the president.

The guards dubbed the “blue light bullies” by the main opposition Democratic Alliance were accused by citizens in 2008 of firing shots at a motorist who did not get out of the way of a presidential convoy quickly enough.

Separately, Zuma has filed a criminal suit against a man for spilling a drink on the president at horse race.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jon Hemming

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