Bombshell over female police recruits
Pretoria - Female recruits at the police's training academy in Ulundi have had their heads shaved bare - leaving one of them in need of urgent medical attention.
Within three days of being shorn last month, the recruit "was so burned by the sun that her whole face was so swollen that she couldn't see anymore", said the 27-year-old's father Antoon Young.
When his daughter sought medical attention she was told that because she was not yet a member of the police's medical aid she could not see a doctor, he said. She was sent to a clinic and given vitamin tablets instead.
"After that, all the other girls collected money for her to see a doctor. The girls with her were prepared to pay for her," said Young.
He said he was told that all the girls who refused to have their hair shaved off were punished with physical training.
Young, a retired policeman with 30 years' service, said that in his entire career with the police he had never heard of female recruits having their heads shaved.
Shaved 'against her will'
He became aware of his daughter's situation when she sent him cellphone images of her swollen face.
"I am of the opinion that she is suffering of sunstroke and that she needs urgent medical treatment as she is complaining of headache, dizziness and vomiting," Young wrote in an open letter to the Freedom Front Plus.
"I am also of the opinion that her hair was shaved against her will and against police regulations."
He said he had tried to contact Police Commissioner Bheki Cele about his daughter's plight.
He said his daughter's severe reaction to being shaved may have also been an allergic reaction to the sudden exposure.
Police spokesperson Colonel Vish Naidoo said there would be a departmental investigation with a view to disciplinary action.
He could not comment further until investigations into the matter had been completed, he said.
Young, who lives in the Free State town of Frankfort, said he felt it was problematic that his daughter had been sent to a police college where instruction was in Zulu although she could not understand the language.
He was also worried that his concern for his daughter's well-being would cause her problems.
"It was me who contacted everybody, not her. I hope this does not get her into trouble. She never contacted anyone except me."
He said that since the incident his daughter had been transferred to the police's training college in Chatsworth, Durban.
Freedom Front Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald said the shaving of female recruits' heads should not be allowed.
He said the recruits had not been provided with hats and that this had resulted in the severe burning of Young's daughter.
"It is also humiliating and an infringement on their human rights. It appears as if the new military approach in the police is being used as a smokescreen which could lead to malpractices," he said.
He would ask Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to launch an investigation and take action against commanders who initiated the practice of shaving female recruits' hair.