Cape Town - The sudden transfer of two Western Cape major generals - Jeremy Vearey and Peter Jacobs - was reminiscent of the days when apartheid police never had to explain themselves, the Labour Court in Cape Town heard on Thursday.
"What was done to Jacobs and Vearey in regard to their transfer was unfair," said Advocate Michael Donen, on behalf of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), which is supporting their court challenge.
"Nowhere in the papers do the [SA Police Service] explain or even attempt to explain how or why the reorganisation and the replacement of Jacobs and Vearey would have had the slightest positive effect."
Vearey, former deputy provincial commissioner for detective services, and Jacobs, who headed the Western Cape's Crime Intelligence unit, were effectively demoted in June 2016.
Vearey was shifted to a position he had previously filled - commander of the Cape Town cluster of police stations - while Jacobs was appointed as Wynberg cluster commander.
They are challenging this in the Labour Court.
"What do the [SA Police Service] say? 'Trust us, it's in the interests of the service.' And that's their favourite phrase," said Donan on Wednesday, in an application to have the transfers reviewed.
"But we say, in 2017, the court cannot trust SAPS unless they put up proper evidence for their justification, and there is simply none on record," Donen told Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker.
He said it reminded him of when anti-apartheid activist Janet Cherry was detained without trial in 1987.
When the minister of police at the time was asked for reasons for her detention, her lawyers were told that "she was teaching trade unionists to read".
Her lawyers applied for her release on the grounds of the unreasonableness of her detention, but then were suddenly given another reason.
"The affidavit said the real reason for her detention without trial was that she was a dangerous terrorist and that it was necessary to detain her to prevent the Eastern Cape from going up in revolutionary flames.
"It would never be fair if they could get away with this kind of technique [again]," submitted Donan.
He said that Vearey and Jacobs had been informed verbally of their transfer on June 23, 2016.
Then there was a plenary where a presentation on the restructuring of the SAPS in the province was made, and after that they were given letters confirming their transfers.
Donan said the police had alleged that the national crime problem, the high level of violence and gang-related activity had needed to be addressed, and that service delivery needs would not be met if the two officers were not transferred.
"So, their response to the high level of violence and high level of gang activity in the Western Cape was to transfer them to posts where they would cease to deal with gangs.
"This was entirely irrational."
There was no record or minutes of the meeting where they were informed, he said.
"Then, as now, the State ignored their individual rights and claimed the interests of the State was the supreme law," said Donen.
'Framed for murder'
Popcru provincial secretary Mncedisi Mbolekwa said, on the side-lines, that the case was important to its members because, in terms of the law, there were processes and timelines relating to transfers.
This case would also affect the union's collective agreement with the SAPS.
No other issues have been raised yet, but Vearey has previously alleged to News24 that he is being framed for the murder of a high profile gang leader in 2016.
He feels it is also connected to the role he played in having gang boss Rashied Staggie arrested and convicted for rape more than a decade ago.
Major-General Mzwandile Tiyo was reappointed the head of provincial crime intelligence to replace Jacobs. He had previously been the acting head of the Western Cape's Crime Intelligence Unit.
News24 reported previously that he has also gone to the Labour Court over allegedly being victimised for having investigated the province's former police commissioner, Arno Lamoer.
Tiyo believed that, in January 2014, Lamoer allegedly blocked him from becoming the province's crime intelligence head.
Lamoer went on to be arrested and Tiyo was appointed as provincial crime intelligence head.
Lamoer is on trial, along with four other senior police officers and a local businessman, in the Western Cape High Court on charges of corruption and racketeering
Vearey and Jacobs's application for a review of their transfers continues.