Court cop forced to carry knife

2010-07-15 00:00

A POLICE officer in New Hanover outside Pietermaritzburg has been without a service firearm for more than a year after his station commissioner disarmed him in June last year, apparently without giving him a reason.

Warrant Officer Thulani Mathonsi was disarmed after suspects laid charges of assault against him. He was never formally charged with the offence, although the firearm was taken away.

As a result of being without a firearm, Mathonsi (41) has armed himself with a bush knife to protect himself on his way to and from work.

The issue of his firearm has been reported to the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), which in turn took it up with higher police authorities.

The union is demanding that Mathonsi’s firearm be returned to him. He is stationed at the New Hanover police station and has been working as a court orderly at the New Hanover Magistrate’s Court since 2008.

The Popcru shop steward in the midlands, Mvuseleli Cele, said the union has discussed the issue of Mathonsi and other complaints that police officers at the station have laid against the station commissioner.

“This firearm was removed from our member unprocedurally and incorrectly.

“A person is disarmed of his service firearm if he is convicted of an offence by the court.

“Only the court can remove the firearm from a member. The case must first be heard by a police disciplinary body before being taken to court,” said Cele.

“As a court orderly, he needs to be armed because he is dealing with criminals who might escape,” he added.

He alleged that the station commissioner never gave Mathonsi a reason for taking away his firearm.

A police officer colleague of Mathonsi, who does not wish to be named, said: “It is no secret that he now carries a bush knife to protect himself. We all know it and community members know it. He cannot afford to buy himself a firearm.”

Before being disarmed, Mathonsi and his colleagues attended to a incident where another colleague had been robbed of his service firearm.

After being arrested, the suspects laid assault charges against them.

This allegedly led to the station commissioner ordering that Mathonsi be disarmed. But he did not sign any document indicating that he was handing the firearm over.

Since then he has been pleading with the station commissioner to return the firearm.

A few days after his firearm was taken away, he was attacked and stabbed in front of the police station.

“He had to run away for his life since he was unarmed,” said the colleague.

The colleague, who is also a member of Popcru, said that when Mathonsi was discharged from hospital after being treated for the stab wounds, he approached the station commissioner to request that his firearm be returned.

“But that led to a bitter confrontation between the two. Right now he still does not have a state pistol,” said the colleague.

Mathonsi is concerned that since the firearm is still registered under his name, if it is used illegally he will be held responsible.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Phindile Radebe said the SA Police Force is investigating a number of reported complaints at the police station.

“The issue of the firearm is among many issues that have been reported. So I cannot comment until the investigation has been completed.

“A very senior officer has been assigned to investigate the police station,” said Radebe.

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