Cop vs cop in medical aid row

General Khehla Sitole and, eyeing him, Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Jaco Marais
General Khehla Sitole and, eyeing him, Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Jaco Marais

It has become a matter of utmost priority that National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole must rein in the “badly behaving” police officers who have repeatedly disrupted the annual general meetings of the SA Police Service Medical Scheme (Polmed), following allegations of a plot to “destabilise, frustrate and bring disorder” to the running of the scheme.

This is according to a report to Sitole, which City Press has seen – and confirmed by high-ranking police insiders – in which chairperson of the Polmed board of trustees Lieutenant-General Ntombenhle Vuma blamed members of the SA Policing Union (Sapu) for the disruptive conduct. Vuma said that efforts dating as far back as 2016 to remedy relations with some of the rank officers who are stakeholders in the scheme had been futile.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the police commissioner was aware of the alleged disruptive conduct and that criminal charges were laid against those involved, adding that: “We will not tolerate this kind of behaviour.”

Sapu has disputed the allegations by Vuma, who is also deputy national police commissioner of legal and asset management.

Polmed covers 508 727 beneficiaries in the police service, based on income plus the number of dependants listed.

A video that Polmed insiders sent to City Press, seemingly recorded at the scheme’s annual general meeting on July 11 in Bloemfontein, showed how the session turned rowdy as two men walked to the podium, confronted the woman on the floor and shouted at her face while waving their arms furiously.

The woman has been identified as Vuma. Hotel security at the President Hotel could also be seen in the video entering the hall to restore order, but they were thrown out of the venue.

“It is our understanding that when SA Police Service (SAPS) members attend the Polmed annual general meeting they do not cease to be rank SAPS members. Accordingly, the standing protocols or orders should continue to be in force in respect of the conduct and decorum applicable to them,” said Vuma in the report prepared for Sitole.

To the scheme, Sitole or his delegates were “empowered to exercise such processes as may be at the disposal of the national commissioner as the employer”, said Vuma.

Sapu general secretary Tumelo Mogodiseng said no members of the union disrupted any Polmed meeting.

“What we know is that Polmed members ask questions about their benefits and are denied an opportunity because trustees cannot account,” said Mogodiseng, adding that the union was not involved in any plot against Polmed.

Being the smaller union compared with the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), Sapu had become frustrated because of its inability to get its candidates elected into the board of trustees of Polmed, the scheme officials said.

Out of the 14 members of the board of trustees, seven are seconded by the national police commissioner and seven are elected from among the members, including unions.

“The disappointment could be seen from the litany of court cases that were lodged by Sapu after the 2015 annual general meeting, challenging the legitimacy of the proceedings and the election results,” read the report to Sitole.

Mogodiseng said Sapu’s interdict of the 2016 annual general meeting was owing to “critical information that was not disclosed”.

He also alleged an abuse of funds.

A Polmed meeting in Port Elizabeth on July 28 2017 was interrupted, resulting in a postponement to the following month. Another attempt to interdict the meeting was received late on the eve of that meeting, but “Sapu lost that bid out of lack of urgency”.

Mogodiseng said Sapu was “never defeated” and no member of the scheme was hostile to the board of trustees. Instead, he said, “members require justice, fairness and proper service to all members regarding the benefits they deserve irrespective of their membership to the union”.

Last year, another meeting in Paarl was also “disrupted by unruly and violent members”, leading to the invocation of the rule that once there are disruptions the meeting must conclude and all agenda items must be adopted as resolutions to enable the functioning of the scheme.

Polmed said the alleged unlawful increases that the board had approved for its members were among the resolutions passed as part of the invocation of the rule, called rule 27.4.2.

However, Mogodiseng said “there was no need at all to have such an amendment, but the board was arrogant”.

Polmed said: “It should be stated on record that Sapu has either lost or withdrawn all of its legal cases against Polmed, which further confirms that its actions have always been malicious.”

Popcru’s Richard Mamabolo said the union had a good relationship with Polmed, “therefore it is always in our interest to ensure it services all police well at all times.

“We cannot support views that we are not familiar with, and nobody has come to us to table their views. For us, Polmed is about championing the interests of members firstly, not to nurse the egos of organs that are hell-bent on creating unnecessary divisions that can only result in rupturing the services the medical aid gives to members.”

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