10 000 cops can’t drive

2014-04-25 08:24

Dropping possession of driving licences as a requirement to join the SA Police Service was enabling poor people to be recruited, national police chief Riah Phiyega has said.

“In this journey of transformation, it is our wish that we recruit those who have licences but unfortunately we know our country,” she said yesterday in Pretoria.

“How do I expect a child of a poor family down in Lusikisiki who has never even seen a car, who has never even seen a driving school in her area, to be part of this mighty force if I don’t enable?”

Phiyega officiated at an event where the SA Police Service and the Safety and Security Education and Training Authority (Sasseta) entered an agreement to provide training on motor vehicle driver skills to 1 000 officers during the 2014/15 financial year.

The SA Police Service fully waived the possession of a driving licence requirement for recruits from 2009.

Phiyega said the recruitment of police officers without the critical driving licences was a strategy to level the playing field for people affected mainly by poverty and inequality.

“It is our responsibility not to cherry pick, not to anti-select, but to be inclusive. It is important for us to ensure that through this partnership, an ordinary child who did not have the opportunity of being in the city, in a model C school, can be a general in this organisation.”

“A car is a primary tool for performance in this service. It is important that cars be available and it is equally important that our members be able to use those cars,” she said.

Officers trained in driving vehicles would assist the SA Police Service to curb the huge legal costs which emanated from the involvement of officers in road accidents.

Police officers would be taken for driving lessons after the May 7 elections, under the Sasseta agreement.

Phiyega said only 10 500 members of the 200 000-strong police service did not have driving licences.

“The margin of those without licences is around 10%. To optimise our efforts, everybody should have the capacity to drive,” she said.

“We need to continuously refresh our driving skills and ensure that we are in tip-top shape. We still want to recruit people with licences but we also accommodate who cannot have them because of circumstances beyond their control.”

Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu said a driving course incorporated into the basic police training would extend the lifespan and working condition of vehicles.

“We realised that the strict requirement was discriminating against our young people, especially those who come from rural areas,” she said.

Due to this requirement, many prospective police officers ended up “buying” the licences and mishandling state vehicles.

“Because of the fact that the requirement was a driving licence, they went and bought the licence to get access into the police. When they are supposed to drive, they would drive from here [Pretoria] to Kroonstad in first gear.”

Two testing centres, in Gauteng and the Western Cape, were established internally to assist officers in getting driving licences.

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