Officer’s suspension questioned

2009-11-09 00:00

THE Msunduzi Municipal traffic officer who was allegedly harassed for refusing to give guns to two members of the Mayor’s VIP unit, because their own guns were undergoing ballistic testing by the police, has been suspended from his job.

Alan Bennett was allegedly suspended for disobedience after not following an order from a senior manger to issue the guns, The Witness has learnt.

According to sources, Bennett, who is in charge of the municipal armoury, was caught between a rock and a hard place — risk issuing the guns and falling foul of the Firearms Control Act, or refuse the guns and face the wrath of his superiors.

His suspension relates to an incident reported in The Witness more than two weeks ago. A scuffle reportedly broke out when the two members of the VIP unit arrived at the armoury and were refused guns. The police were called in to restore law and order but were apparently told to stand down as they were not needed.

The VIP members had been involved in shooting incidents unrelated to their official duty. As a result, their regular service firearms had been taken in by the police for ballistic testing.

It is believed that Bennett eventually agreed to issue the guns if he received written authority from the municipal manager. Kevin Perumal, who was acting municipal manager at the time, but the letter was allegedly signed by his secretary and not him. Sources say this is not acceptable according to the requisites of the Fire Arms Control Act.

The Witness asked the municipality for clarity on whether the authority of the municipal manager supersedes that of the requirements of the Firearms Control Act.

We enquired whether Bennett was still under suspension, how long will this last; will he have to face a disciplinary hearing and whether his allegedly disobedience was a dismissible offence.

Acting municipal manager Roy Bridgemohan said: “The Municipal manager Mr Rob Haswell, suspended Mr Alan Bennett from active duty, pending formal disciplinary action being taken, I believe that the municipal manger should comment if he wishes to do so.

“With regards to the rest of the issues raised in your e-mail, as the matter is sub judice, it will not be prudent for me to respond. Accordingly, the municipality reserves its rights to further comment on the matter.”

There have been several suspensions at the municipality during the past few years. Those who were suspended include Tony Brinklow, Vic Deetlefs, Jimmy Mthethwa and Llewellyn Muller. All are back at work and all were paid during their suspension period. Mthethwa was suspended for close to a year. Queries are being raised whether this cannot be constituted fruitless and wasteful expenditure. It is believed that Bennett’s alleged misdemeanour could have been dealt with immediately without the need for suspension.

Attempts to contact Bennett were unsuccessful.

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