Up and coming professional cyclist Nic Dlamini has allegedly had his arm broken after rough handling from park rangers who stopped him in Table Mountain National Park near Cape Town in South Africa. The incident happened on 27 December, and was filmed by a fellow rider, Donovan Le Cok.
Dlamini is a Laureus Sports award nominee and one of South Africa’s leading athletes.
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After the incident went viral on Twitter South Africa’s Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said she had visited the rider in hospital and heard from him what had happened. She subsequently called for the immediate suspension of “all officials involved” and for there to be an independent investigation into the incident. (UPDATE: On December 28 it was announced that the five rangers involved in this incident have been suspended pending an independent investigation.)
A press statement from the Table Mountain National Park claimed that Dlamini “injured himself” in the confrontation.
South African National Parks (SanParks) told News24 that Dlamini had been arrested because he had not paid for an activity permit.
“The rangers were alerted of a cyclist that entered gate 1 of the Silvermine section of Table Mountain National Park without making any payment,” said SanParks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli.
“On investigation, they found the cyclist in question, stopped him and asked for the necessary permit which he did not produce. As per the law, that is a transgression which requires them to be fined or apprehended.”
“It is alleged that the cyclist became quite aggressive with the rangers, hence the scuffle. The arm may have broken as a result of him resisting arrest.”
— Lawrence Lindeque (@larrymontana) December 27, 2019
A video posted to Twitter alleges to show the later stages of this “scuffle”— the 24-year-old Dlamini apparently made no attempts to resist arrest. A crack is heard in the footage as the rider is pushed up against a ranger motor vehicle and his arm forced up his back—it is possible this is the moment that the break occurred. A hospital X-ray later updated to Twitter by Lindeque confirmed that Dlamini’s arm had suffered a fracture.
Commenting on Twitter, some South African cyclists have said they, too, have suffered at the hands of “thuggish” park rangers.
Kenyan-born Tour de France winning cyclist Chris Frome said the incident in the video was “appalling.”
Dlamini’s fellow South Africa rider Daryl Impey tweeted: “@SANParks. You should be very ashamed of yourselves.”
Dlamini rides for NTT Pro Cycling, formerly known as Team Dimension Data.
Team NTT claimed that park rangers grabbed hold of Dlamini’s handlebars as he was riding in order to bring him to a stop.
“Despite being visibly distressed after being pulled off his bicycle at high speed, which saw him crash, there can be no justification for the level of violence meted out to him,” said Team NTT in a press statement.
“This unnecessary injury will now have a serious effect [on Dlamini’s] his chances of racing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.”
The team has called for SANParks to implement disciplinary procedures against the officials involved.
Team principal Douglas Ryder said:
“I was both devastated and appalled to see the video of Nicholas on social media. To watch a young man who I know so well in such unnecessary distress made me feel sick.”
Dlamini was memorably captured leading the pack over a bridge in the pouring rain during the Tour of Yorkshire professional cycle race staged in May. He has also competed in the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana) and he won the mountains classification at the 2018 Tour of Britain.
Updated with new information provided by Team NTT. And then updated again with the statement from RSA’s Environment Minister.