A colleague of mine joked that "you'd be lucky to find a black man in Taupo and unlucky to be a black man in this place".

That was said in jest but little did I know on Saturday evening as we went out to check out the night life of this quiet resort town that I would be that unlucky black man.

After watching the game between the All Blacks and France with other journalists at Jolly Good Fellows we hit the town, or rather one street of it, to a well known establishment called The Shed.

We were in luck as we were able to catch the back end of a band performing at the establishment but it was just over 30 minutes before their stint was to end and the bar closed down.


As I stepped out of the toilet for some much-needed relief I watched my colleague from a distance hit the dance floor to some reggae tunes while I opted not to embarrass myself with my lack of dance moves.

I observed a group of policemen enter the bar but I thought little of it as it was closing time and I thought that they were just making sure that no more drinks were being served, but unbeknown to me I was about to be that unlucky black man.

One of the officers approached me and told me that I fit the description of a man they were looking for who offered one of the patrons narcotics but I denied the allegation as I had never before in my life even entertained the thought of using narcotics even recreationally.

Anyway I was ushered outside and told I was being detained under some Section 29 and that they would conduct a search of my clothes for these narcotics.

I was questioned about my identity and my reason for being in New Zealand which I provided to the officers and even showed them my South African drivers license.

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.

My rights were then read to me and I was searched, but fortunately not naked, just my trenchcoat, pockets, shoes and the inner part of my jeans.

After a brief 10 minutes or so I was found to be clean and duly walked out of the police station with an officer and made the long trek back to outside the establishment to look for my colleague.


The officer did apologise for the mistaken identity and said that he had chosen to spare me the embarrassment of searching me in public but it was too late.

I was already embarrassed and harassed and felt extremely violated as the officers had only taken the word of the accuser and not mine even after providing them with my identity.

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 trenchcoat, striped jersey, blue jeans and white sneakers to the only other black guy I saw who was wearing spectacles.

Nonetheless the incident changed my entire experience of Taupo, New Zealand and how the police in this part of the world operate.

Even with the prevalence of drugs and crime in our country, South Africa, I have never been accused of selling or possessing drugs as close in colour to many of those who do sell narcotics.

Prior to this unsavoury episode I was really enjoying Taupo and New Zealand and besides the weather I even dabbled with the idea of trying to convince my wife to one day come and see Taupo for herself on one of our many planned vacations abroad.

After this, not a chance.

In fact, I can't wait until Thursday when the South African media contingent and Springboks leave for Auckland for the match against Samoa and never to return to this place.

Taupo prides itself as the "adventure capital of New Zealand" and I did get more than my fair share of adventure as those two officer truly gave me an adrenalin rush that no jet boat on the rapids of the Waikato River or bungy jump could have given me.

Thanks to the heavy and thoughtless hand of the Taupo Police, I am that unlucky black man in Taupo.

* Vata Ngobeni is chief rugby writer for the Pretoria News.