Cops arrest taxi unit unionists

2010-08-11 00:00

ABOUT 15 marked police vehicles with more than 20 police officers descended on a house in Bisley last month to take away the service pistol of a suspended KwaZulu-Natal Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU) officer.

The officer has complained about what he calls a show of unnecessary police force.

He and a fellow officer were suspended for alleged gross insubordination on the same day that they had refused to take part in a parade.

The officers, whose names are withheld, are branch executive committee members and shop-stewards of the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) at the Transport Department head office.

One of the officers told The Witness, “At knock-off time I went home with my service pistol and uniform. At around 7 pm a convoy of police vehicles from various stations lined up in front of my house with more than 20 officers.

“They came inside and demanded my service firearm, but I refused to give it to them because it belongs to the department, and there are procedures followed for an employer to take back state property.”

The police handcuffed him and allegedly pushed him to his bedroom, which they ransacked, and then took the pistol. He was then detained at Alexandra Road police station.

“Those people humiliated me in front of my family and neighbours. No search warrant was produced and they just said they were following an instruction. I was treated like a common criminal,” the officer said.

The police allegedly went to the home of the second officer where they took his service pistol in the presence of his 12-year-old son. The officer was not at home at the time of the police raid as he was said to be attending a church service out of town.

Nehawu’s chairperson in the department, Skhumbuzo Mdlalose, expressed disgust at the way in which the police had treated the officer, saying it is “pathetic for state resources to be misused in such a manner”.

“Schedule 8 (Sub-section 2) of the Labour Relations Act stipulates that the employer cannot institute disciplinary action against union representatives. The employer must first consult the union about the disciplinary intention, allowing the union to file its submissions on the matter.

“This is a clear abuse of power as there was no need to send a battalion to our member.

“There are people who run the department as if they are running their own back yard spaza shops,” said Mdlalose.

He said the matter is being dealt with internally and the officers are still at work, although their duties have been scaled down.

Last week two e-mails were sent to the communication department with questions from The Witness.

These were followed by numerous phone calls as reminders. The only response has been from department head Chris Hlabisa, who gave The Witness cellphone numbers of three officials who could comment.

Only a Mr Nzimakwe could be reached, but he would not comment, saying that it is the communications department’s job. The communications department passed the buck to Hlabisa.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan confirmed that the police went to the homes in response to a call for assistance.

She said a Mr Sibiya of the PTEU asked the police to help confiscate state firearms from officers who had been served with suspension notices.

“Quite a few police units responded to the call as it involved firearms.

“A charge of illegal possession of a firearm was laid against the officers, while a case of firearm theft was levelled against the police,” said Jeevan.

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