Police have hit back at accusations that the search of a prominent South African sports writer here for the Rugby World Cup was racially motivated.

Vata Ngobeni, chief rugby writer for the Pretoria News, has labelled himself "the unlucky black man in Taupo" in a column published overnight in his newspaper after he was taken to a police station and searched after being accused of peddling drugs in a Taupo bar.

Bay of Plenty Police district commander Superintendent Glenn Dunbie said they had "received credible information about an alleged offence and we were obliged to act on that information. Ethnicity, occupation or any other details would be irrelevant - the police focus was on the alleged offence''.

Dunbier said in recent weeks police have received information about increasing quantities of ecstacy and cannabis being sold in and around Taupo.


Dunbier said that the police officer on duty outside the bar was approached by a patron who told him that a man was dealing drugs in the toilets.

He said it was explained to Mr Ngobeni that the police had been told a man fitting his description was alleged to have been drug dealing and he was advised that the police could search him for drugs.

"They asked me if a bag that was five metres away from me was mine. I said no. Then they said that someone said that I offered them tablets in the toilets. I said to them, 'That's crazy'."

Ngobeni left the bar to talk to the officers and told them who he was and what he was doing in New Zealand.

Dunbier said Ngobeni was then taken to the nearby police station because it "wasn't appropriate'' to conduct the search in public.

"I had to take off my shoes, empty my pockets, they searched the inside of my jeans, all that stuff,'' said Ngobeni.

Dunbier said the search was handled "properly and professionally'', but Ngobeni told the Herald the police were heavy-handed and unreasonable and the incident had soured his trip to New Zealand.

Although the police said it was no doubt "an unpleasant experience'' and apologised for any inconvenience, they say the search was handled "properly and professionally''.


Other South African journalists here for the Rugby World Cup have called the police actions racist.

South African journalist Michael Mentz, who was in the bar with Ngobeni, took to Twitter to allege the police were racially motivated.

"Thoughts with my travelling comrade @Vata-Ngobeni who was detained in Taupo, New Zealand, for being Black. Racism alive in this place!" Mentz wrote.

Brenden Nel, another South African journalist, tweeted that the police action was "racial profiling at its worst".

"To stop and search and haul an SA journo to a police station because of the way he looks without any evidence is ridiculous," Nel wrote.

Mr Ngobeni told the Herald he didn't know if the police actions were racist, but "I felt a little bit out of place after the incident".

The bar's duty manager at the time, who declined to be named, said his staff were surprised when the police approached Ngobeni as he had been there only a short while.

Ngobeni said that when he went to the toilets, there were only two other patrons present, one a "half-collapsed" drunk.

No words were exchanged.

He said he would never use drugs, let alone try to sell them.

"I wish the guys who arrested me were more understanding, instead of taking the word of a drunk."