South African rugby journalist claims NZ police racism

21:35, Sep 26 2011

A South African journalist has accused Taupo police of racism after he was detained and searched on suspicion of selling drugs.

Police have rejected the racism claim, saying they dealt with the situation appropriately.

Vata Ngobeni is in the country covering the Rugby World Cup for Pretoria News and was at a Taupo bar with colleagues after the All Blacks versus France match on Saturday night.

One officer approached him telling him he fitted the description of a man who had offered narcotics to another patron, Ngobeni said in a story published yesterday in Pretoria News.

He said he was an "unlucky black man" because police had targeted him because his colour matched the description of the alleged offender.

"I'm not saying that the officers were not within their rights to approach me, but there is a clear distinction between myself in a black trench coat, striped jersey, blue jeans and white sneakers to the only other black guy I saw who was wearing spectacles."

Ngobeni said he denied the allegation, told the officers he was in New Zealand to cover the World Cup and showed them his South African driver's licence.

"I agreed and even offered to be searched across the road next to the vehicle, but they said that they will do so at the police station. And like a criminal, I was asked to sit at the back of an unmarked police vehicle with one of the officers and driven off to the police station."

He was searched and his clothing was checked before an officer apologised for the mistaken identity, Ngobeni said.

"I was already embarrassed and harassed and felt extremely violated as the officers had only taken the word of the accuser and not even considered, at first, that I was telling the truth."

He said he had never used drugs nor been accused of selling or possessing drugs in South Africa "even with the prevalence of drugs and crime in our country".

Ngobeni said he was thinking of taking his wife to visit Taupo, but "after this, not a chance".

Inspector Scott Fraser of Rotorua Police said he was satisfied the situation was dealt with "appropriately and professionally".

"Police entered the bar and located a male who fitted the description given by a member of the public. He accompanied police back to the Taupo station where he was searched under Section 18 of the Misuse of Drugs Act," Fraser said.

"He was not arrested, no drugs were found and he was immediately released."