Pinetown officers lodge grievances about ‘strings and skins’

2012-06-08 00:00

TWENTY-THREE police officers from Pinetown police station have lodged grievances against their station commander Brigadier Owen Yamani Zama.

This came after Zama instructed Hindu officers to remove their red Laxmi string — a religious symbol of blessing and a form of protection — from their wrists.

The Witness established yesterday that there were 23 complainants, including Zulus who were forced to remove their iziphandla, bracelets made of goat hide that have a cultural value.

Regional chairperson of the South African Policing Union, Lieutenant Yoga Gounden, was the first to complain.

He is now the representative of the other 22 officers who lodged complaints after he did.

He told The Witness: “This is an infringement of our rights. It is very upsetting and distressing.”

The officers were told that the wrist bands are a violation to the police dress code. Gounden has been in the police force for 30 years and has been working at the station for 16 years. He said he fails to understand why his wrist band is considered as a decoration.

“I have never experienced such a problem before. We have rights. We are against this,” he said.

Danny Goulkan, communications manager for the National Heritage Council, said the matter is unacceptable. “It is not acceptable for an employer to forcefully, without negotiation, expect an employees to refrain from practising their culture,” he said, adding that they have dealt with similar cases in the past and it was found that there needs to be more tolerance towards cultural practices.

“What inconvenience do these cultural wrist bands cause to the employer, especially when they are concealed with uniform?”

South African Human Rights Commission spokesperson Vincent Moaga confirmed that a complaint has been lodged with their provincial office. “We are currently dealing with this this particular matter. Every now and again we get cultural related complaints from the work place.”

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said the Pinetown matter was forwarded to the national office of the police force for consideration in terms of amending the dress code.

“We are a national department and therefore only the national office can amend the dress orders to accommodate the wearing of red strings and skins whilst in uniform.

“We are currently awaiting feedback from our legal services at the national office,” he said.

• Siyathemba.Ben@media24.com

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