Crooked arm of the law

2011-11-09 00:00

ALMOST one in four Msunduzi Municipality traffic officers have criminal records.

The traffic officers are also peace officers, and the law states that no peace officer with a criminal record is allowed to perform an arrest.

The Witness has learnt that 14 of the 58 traffic officers — about 24% — in the city’s traffic department have criminal records.

Council insiders said most of the criminal records relate to fraud; others have convictions for theft, pointing a firearm and armed robbery. They said the offences were committed while the officers were off duty

A SA Police Service circular distributed to municipal managers and heads of traffic in all municipalities states that “no condonation will be given and no appointment will be made” for any officers who have criminal convictions for offences such as fraud, extortion and bribery. The Witness has a copy of the circular.

Quoting section 34 of the Criminal Procedure Act, the circular also requires peace officers’ and traffic officers’ certificates to be renewed yearly as part of a verification process. This involves re-taking fingerprints to screen employees for convictions or pending cases.

Colonel P.M. Moodley of the SA Police Service said, “If members have criminal cases pending against them the municipality must suspend or deregister them. From the police side we withdraw the appointment pending the outcome of the internal disciplinary inquiry and criminal case.”

He said peace officers are given a grace period to renew their certificates and that it is illegal for peace officers to make arrests when they have criminal records.

Some Msunduzi traffic officers believe the re-registration and suspension process is a witch-hunt led by the acting deputy municipality manager for community services, Kwenza Khumalo. They claim he is trying to get rid of them because they exposed him for being unqualified to work as a senior superintendent.

Said an officer who declined to be named, “Most of us were placed by the municipality to work as traffic cops while we were working as wardens and we have been trained by the KZN Traffic Training College. We have declared our previous criminal records.”

He said many of his colleagues have applied for the criminal records to be expunged because the  crimes were committed more than five years ago.

Msunduzi administrator Sibusiso Sithole denied the process has anything to do with Khumalo.

“We are complying with SAPS directive, which is to deregister peace officers with criminal records working as traffic officers,” said Sithole.

Each case will be dealt with on its merits, he said, and they will try to find an amicable solution because the municipality had not complied with a legislative directive.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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