Dead cop's promotion trial to go ahead

2010-11-17 22:19
Johannesburg - A policeman's battle to be promoted "even though he is dead" is set to go to trial in the Labour Court in Johannesburg after documents were signed by trade union Solidarity and the SA Police Service (Saps) on Wednesday.

The parties signed the pre-trial minutes moments before the case was due to be heard in court.

"It took Saps a year to sign, but they have done it," said Solidarity's lawyer Dirk Groenewald outside court.

Tinus Gouws and four other policemen, a police pilot, and a crew member, were killed when their helicopter plunged to the ground bursting into flames in a field near Verena Road, about 7km outside Witbank, in July. They were on their way to the scene of a bakery robbery.

If Saps had not signed, Solidarity was going to ask the court to compel them to do so, so that the case could be placed on the court roll.

At the time of his death, Gouws was engaged in a legal battle with Saps over his failure to be promoted due to affirmative action.

His case has been consolidated with seven similar cases being represented by Solidarity in court.

Only suitable applicant

These cases have been consolidated in two groups: the implementation of affirmative action in promoting employees, and the implementation of affirmative action in the reappointment of former police members.

According to the pre-trial minutes, Gouws, a white man who had been a police officer for 20 years, was at the time of his death an inspector in the Saps Air Wing division.

He had applied for a post of Airborne Law Enforcement Officer, Helicopters, with the rank of Captain.

The selection panel recommended him for the position in January 2009, saying he was the only suitable applicant.

However, in March 2009, Saps sent him a letter saying the position had not been filled due to equity restrictions. It was instead left vacant.

The parties disagree about whether the decision not to promote Gouws was based on reasonable and justifiable reasons. They also disagree about whether the Air Wing was "overly-represented" by white males.

Saps admits in the court documents that race was a factor in the decision, but denied that taking race into account when filling positions amounted to unfair discrimination on the grounds of race.

The officers who died in the July crash were hailed as heroes at their memorial service.

"Their children won't have the luxury to call on their fathers now. The SA Police Service must fill that gap. This organisation will be a father to these children and a husband to these widows," national police commissioner General Bheki Cele said at the time.

Solidarity spokesperson Dirk Hermann said on Tuesday they had been trying for over a year to finalise the minutes.

"Until the minutes have been signed by both parties, the cases cannot be placed on the roll."

Hermann said Gouws' family could benefit if the court case was decided in Solidarity's favour.

"If the court ultimately decides that the implementation of affirmative action was unfair, a request can be made for compensation to be paid to Gouws' estate for the period in which he was not promoted.

"In addition, the promotion will result in an improvement in the pension payout to Gouws' family."

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