Zondi disbands top cops team

2016-06-09 10:29
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Pietermaritzburg - Pietermaritzburg’s elite cluster team was disbanded earlier this week after three officers were arrested recently on charges of bribery and corruption.

The uMgungundlovu South police cluster’s 70-man team was disbanded on Monday by Brigadier Bongumusa Zondi, who is now acting commander for the cluster, causing mixed reactions from officers on the team and officers from within the cluster.

Police denied that shutting the team down had anything to do with the arrest of three officers last week, and instead said the team, which was a police project, had reached finality.

In a sting operation on Tuesday last week, the Hawks bust the trio along with an accomplice, who is a ­police reservist, after they allegedly ­demanded R5 000 from a drug dealer they were supposed to arrest.

Instead, they were arrested on Tuesday evening and appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday where they were released on R500 bail each.

The team — established by former cluster commander Major-General Lucas Ngobeni, who has now been ­transferred to Durban — comprised the cluster’s best officers who were ­mandated to tackle serious and violent crimes, trace wanted suspects, conduct crime prevention operations and tackle the scourge of drugs in the city.

Speaking to The Witness on Tuesday, Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the project’s lifespan was over “a long time ago”.

“In the police, projects such as this cluster team have a limited existence and are temporary. They are established to deal with certain issues and complete certain tasks, after which they must be dissolved,” Ngobese said.

He said Zondi is happy with the team’s achievements and complimented the officers on their successes in conducting suspect raids, stopping serious and violent crimes and tackling drugs in the cluster.

“The team did their job well but now we have realised that the cluster has new needs and challenges which attention must be given to,” Ngobese said. “New projects will now be started to deal with these challenges.”

However, some officers in the cluster said it is “all just too coincidental” that the project was shut down straight after three officers from the team were arrested.

“The three officers should be dealt with harshly if they are proved guilty, but this does not mean the entire team should be painted with the same brush. We worked hard to make a difference in the cluster,” one officer said.

Another officer said he understood Zondi’s decision. “Once the reputation of a team is tainted, it is difficult to maintain good relationships within the community. A fresh start is needed. But we must not forget all the hard work put in by the officers on the team who did their job properly.”

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  police  |  saps

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