Don’t touch me on my private trip

2015-02-22 15:00

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The next time police officers in KwaZulu-Natal want to take a trip out of the country, they’ll need permission from crime intelligence.

The same applies to civilian employees of the police force, who will have to be vetted by crime intelligence before they can even dream of heading for foreign shores.

Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni created the new rules soon after a police customs officer from KwaZulu-Natal was arrested in Hong Kong and charged with drug trafficking.

City Press has seen the order Ngobeni signed issuing the new rules. It is dated February 10, two weeks after 36-year-old harbour policewoman Sergeant Busisiwe Zungu was arrested in China.

The rules apply to officers travelling to neighbouring countries or further afield – for any reason, whether it’s official business or a family holiday.

Ngobeni writes in the order that all SA Police Service (SAPS) members and civilian employees who want to travel during their leave must “timeously” make an “application for recommendation” to their commander with dates, destinations and other details.

“The recommended application must be forwarded to the Provincial Head: Crime Intelligence: KwaZulu-Natal for approval. Members may be subjected to an interview prior to and following their travel,” Ngobeni writes.

Zungu, who ran a successful informal clothing import and export business while working as a police officer, travelled abroad regularly. She told colleagues she was buying stock for her business. Zungu is awaiting trial in Hong Kong.

Zungu allegedly hadn’t informed her commanding officer about the trip, which started in mid-January.

Ngobeni’s spokesperson, Colonel Jay Naicker, confirmed that the directive had been issued, but said it was merely a “reminder” of SAPS standing orders.

“All members are obligated to inform their commanders in advance should they wish to travel abroad,” Naicker said.

He said any member who did not comply would be disciplined, and confirmed that the “reminder” was the “result of a current investigation where it is alleged that a member may have travelled abroad without informing the commander”.

Johannes Mncwango, the KwaZulu-Natal president of the SA Police Union, disagreed with Naicker, saying the directive was “something completely new”.

“There was previously no process where travel had to be vetted. We want to meet the commissioner and find out exactly what her motivation is,” said Mncwango.

“This violates the right to movement of our members and of civilian employees. There are constitutional implications involved here.”

Mncwango said that hundreds of SAPS members in KwaZulu-Natal had relatives in Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland.

“How then do they travel for a family emergency or even just a visit?’’

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