Racism allegedly reigns supreme at Lydenburg police station

2017-08-06 06:01
Mondli Zuma

Mondli Zuma

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Black police officers in Mpumalanga have called on provincial police commissioner Mondli Zuma to act decisively against their allegedly racist colleagues, whom they accuse of refusing to treat them as equals.

The officers from Lydenburg police station, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, told City Press this week that a probe was undertaken in 2014 by the police’s labour relations unit, which found that white senior managers were racist.

Despite this finding, the SA Police Service was yet to implement the unit’s recommendations.

The black cops who lodged the complaint said they were still being victimised. They had also asked the province to investigate allegations against station commissioner Benson Mphahlele for:

- Cutting off a telephone line at the Mashishing satellite station;

- Showing scant concern about escalating crime;

- Being an autocratic leader who labelled them as Boeremag members; and

- Deducting officers’ pay even when they had reported sick.

City Press has learnt that Mphahlele was the only senior officer who was subjected to the recommendations of the investigation, and was transferred to another station.

“Since the province came down here to investigate in 2014, only its recommendations against black managers were implemented, while those against two white managers were not,” said one of the disgruntled black officers.

“Racism is a big problem here and the situation is volatile. Black officers are beaten by white managers and nothing is done about it.”

City Press has obtained a copy of the original complaint and the police’s labour relations unit report with recommendations, which were released on February 24 2015.

The black officers had also complained against Lydenburg’s cluster commander, Hans Putter, and support head commander Johannes Heymans.

No action was taken against them. Instead, Putter was promoted to a station commissioner at the same police station.

Investigations

Some of the complaints against these senior officers were that:

- Putter had allegedly established a sector in Potlootspruit – a predominantly white area where he resided – and appointed himself a sector commander;

- Putter allegedly excluded cluster personnel from decision making and imposed on Heymans to perform visible cluster policing coordinators’ duties; and

- Heymans allegedly said: “All black policemen and women are stupid and I cannot wait to fire them all.” He also told an officer who needed transport to go to the provincial office, located 100km away in Mbombela, to “go to the hiking spot or walk”.

The labour relations unit, in its comments, said that “Lieutenant Colonel Heymans’ actions contain elements of racism”. Putter, commented the investigators, showed no interest in managing the station properly.

The unit recommended that Putter be removed because “he displayed elements of lacking patriotism”, while with regards to Heymans it said that he also must be removed and “placed in another environment and be assisted professionally by EHW (employee health and wellness department).

Putter did not answer his cellphone or reply to text questions sent by City Press. When City Press tried to contact Heymans, he was not in the office and his secretary said his cellphone was faulty.

Mpumalanga’s police spokesperson, Leonard Hlathi, said although the labour relations unit recommended that Putter and Heymans be removed, it was the provincial commissioner’s prerogative to transfer officers.

“The report, as you can see, was signed by a colonel and it is the commissioner who can transfer members.”

“There are investigations being carried out at the station, which I am not at liberty to comment about.”

Last month, a video and pictures circulated on social media. They showed that a private security company, Phoenix Security, had taken over the police’s work at this station and were arresting, detaining and even charging suspects, particularly those from Mashishing township.

Black officers claimed that they were excluded from operations involving Phoenix, while community members said Phoenix Security targeted black people in roadblocks. They said Phoenix took along police reservists on their operations.

Do you think the Mpumalanga police commissioner takes racism seriously? What can be done to get him to act decisively?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword COPS and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    mpumalanga  |  racism

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