Cops who mock the law

2012-12-14 00:00

EIGHTEEN traffic officers employed by the Msunduzi Municipality are convicted criminals, and officials say it is not their job to scrap their certificates.

Their criminal records include serious crimes such as fraud, theft, escape from custody, culpable homicide and impersonating a police officer.

This was revealed in an answer to a DA parliamentary question to KZN Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Nomusa Dube.

DA’s George Mari said according to the reply from Cogta, some officers had more than one conviction and that the offences were discovered only when officers re-applied for their certificates of employment — which is done annually.

“The reply does not reveal whether the offences were committed when the officers were on or off duty,” he said.

Mari said not having a criminal record was a basic prerequisite for any law enforcement officer but the reality was that individuals with convictions were still employed as law enforcement officers on Msunduzi’s roads.

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said it was not the responsibility of the municipality to de-register traffic officers, but that of the KZN Traffic Training College, which falls under the Transport Department.

“Annually, officers have to be checked if they have criminal records, by sending their fingerprints to Pretoria,” he said.

Nkosi said the problem they had before was that officers refused to have their fingerprints checked.

He said the college normally de-registered officers found to have criminal records and then forwarded their details to the municipality, which in turn fired them.

According to Nkosi, nine out of the 27 traffic officers who were suspended last month for embarking on an illegal strike had criminal records.

The protesters blocked entry to the traffic headquarters on Washington Road and fired teargas into the offices, intimidating non-striking colleagues.

They said they were unhappy about their work vehicles, which were in a “state of disrepair,” and because traffic officers were being de-registered for failing to meet employment criteria.

During an application for a court interdict in the high court in Durban, Msunduzi’s acting manager of public safety, Thomas Allan Bennett, said the strike was more likely related to the proposed de-registration of officers who had criminal records.

Department of Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane confirmed that only five of the 18 officers with criminal records had been de-registered.

Some had been convicted of assault and drunk driving.

Mari said the fact that 18 of Msunduzi traffic officers had criminal records made a mockery of local law enforcement.

“This debacle makes a mockery of the many officers who are dedicated to their roles and who conduct themselves with integrity, and [this] has highlighted the need for stricter controls around the registration of officers, including random checks on officers’ credentials,” said Mari.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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