Convicted cops to keep jobs, court rules

2014-06-16 00:00

THE 173 KZN police officers who faced the axe because of their criminal records are to keep their jobs.

Following a Cabinet-ordered audit which revealed over a thousand criminal records in the SAPS, a Labour Court in Port Elizabeth last week ruled that the fitness boards of inquiry which probed the officers’ misconduct was without legal force.

The court also ruled that the powers given to the national commissioner did not include the power to convene fitness boards regarding misconduct which should be dealt with under the SAPS disciplinary regulations.

It made the ruling on an application that was lodged by the Police, Prison, Civil Rights Union (Popcru) when then Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced the dismissal of the officers two months ago.

A total of 1 448 officers were identified as having criminal records nationally and 1 017 were to be dismissed in March after appearing before the fitness boards established by national commissioner Riah Phiyega.

A further 300 officers were still to appear before the fitness boards while 67 left the service.

Of these officers 173 officers facing dismissal came from KwaZulu-Natal and another 160 were to appear before the fitness boards.

Commenting on the ruling, Popcru spokesperson Theto Mahlakoana said the union was pleased with the court judgment.

“Popcru does not and has never disputed the entitlement of SAPS to dismiss officers who commit crimes. What resulted in the organisation approaching the court was the process which SAPS adopted to address the problem of its employees with criminal records, as we found it to be grossly unfair and unlawful,” she said.

Kwenza Nxele, Popcru’s KZN secretary, hailed the the court ­judgment.

“It is a victory to us in the sense that our motto says justice is for all. In terms of the law there is nothing that gives power to the commissioner to institute boards of inquiry that has power to decide on the future of employees.”

He said the stance of Popcru was that the police service should follow correct procedures in disciplining the officers.

“We don’t want the employer to do wrong things to deal with officers in a wrong a way.”

Nxele said there were officers who were subjected to the fitness board though they appeared before disciplinary hearings which imposed sanctions against them.

“You can’t discipline a person twice, that is double jeopardy. It is unacceptable.”

Nxele also charged that some officers had criminal records for “petty” crimes.

However, he said Popcru did not support officers who were engaged in criminal activities.

Nxele also said the union has written a letter to Phiyega wanting to negotiate how to handle the plight of the affected officers.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s spokesperson Musa Zondi referred media questions to Phiyega’s office.

National police spokesperson Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale would only say that they were studying the court judgment.

Johan Burger of the Institute of security Studies previously told The Witness that the Police Service Act has a provision that if an officer was convicted without a fine, they were automatically dismissed.

He had said it was “not too late” to institute the internal investigations and make recommendations on the convicted officer.

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