The Portfolio Committee met to discuss a petition calling for the re-enlistment of former members of the Ciskei and Transkei police. They were first briefed by the representative of the former members, who said they were dissatisfied with the South African Police Service (SAPS) decision not to approve their re-employment in the police during the unification process in the mid-1990s. He believed that they had been being discriminated against, as fellow colleagues who had been part of the former SA Police (SAP) had been re-enlisted, even though according to his own research, some had not met the criteria.
The aggrieved members’ spokesman said he had had a problem with amalgamation because it had been politically motivated to discredit former police members. Amalgamation had been a way of pushing former police members out of the police force in order to accommodate the political heads’ brothers and colleagues. It had been motivated by nepotism. The whole process had been conducted in a racial and discriminatory manner. That was the reason he was still fighting for justice in this matter. He was not motivated by money, but just wanted to serve his people, and had no criminal record.
The National Commissioner of Police maintained their decision of not approving the 14 officers who had appealed, on grounds that they had not been amalgamated and their names were missing from the database. He emphasised that two wrongs could not make a right, referring to the alleged re-enlistment of officers, even though they had violated some of the re-enlistment criteria. He stressed that if a member had been dishonorably discharged, there was nothing the delegation could do. There would not be any exceptions made to the rules and criteria of the re-enlistment process. He offered to meet the petitioners to find a solution to the matter.
The Members of the Committee wanted to know if the men were willing to take up the Commissioner’s offer. The petitioners responded that if he would re-enlist them like the other re-enlisted members had been, they would accept it.
Eastern Cape re-enlistment petition
Mr Monge Qongqo, a representative of the former police of Ciskei and Transkei, expressed his grievance at not being re-enlisted in the March 1995 by the then Commissioner of Police, George Fivaz.
Mr Qongqo and other officers had retired between the years of 1990 and 1995. They had applied for re-enlistment through the Eastern Cape provincial office in the Eastern Cape. The formers officers had gone through the medical check-up and had been cleared for re-employment and were advised to wait for placements. During this time, they had observed that their colleagues were re-employed and new intakes had been accepted. The former officers had inquired from the provincial headquarters about the status of their application, but had never received positive feedback.
In August 2013, the former officers had received feedback from the Provincial Commissioner stating that they had not been considered for re-employment. The former officers had made inquiries at the South African Police Service (SAPS) national office, and were they were informed that the case had been thoroughly investigated and that their applications had been unsuccessful. The matter was considered finalised.
The former officers were of the view that they had been discriminated against, as some of their former colleagues -- particularly those from the former SAP – had been re-appointed, while they had been left with an unsatisfactory explanation. They understood the 1995 minute of enlistment to be applicable to both SAP, Ciskei and Transkei police. He concluded by appealing to Parliament to consider their re-enlistment, which they had been following up since 1995. (See attached document).
Major General Govender, Divisional Commissioner: Personnel Management, SAPS, described the processes followed for SAPS to reach the decision they made concerning the re-enlistment of the former officers who Mr Qongqo represented.
He said that prior to 1994, there had been 11 separate police agencies in South Africa -- the former South African Police (SAP); the TBVC states (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei); and self governing territories. On 25 January 1995, in terms of Proclamation No. R5 of 1995 regarding the SAPS rationalis, members of these former police agencies had been appointed as members of SAPS. After the unification, an advertisement had been placed inviting former TBVC and self-governing territories’ officers to re-enlist in accordance with regulations 11(b) and 11(2). The regulation had the criteria for re-enlistment of those former police officers. (See attached document).
In February 1995, the national head office had received a complaint from former police members, and they had been advised to liaise with the recruitment officer in Port Elizabeth. The applications of these officers had not been approved, as they had not met the re-enlistment criteria. A verification process had been done in respect of the members who had complained -- 14 members at the time -- and the results showed that these former officers were not amalgamated.
General Govender concluded by maintaining that the complaints by the former police officers had been unsatisfactory, and that the issue had been dealt with comprehensively.
Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) said that the problem was twofold. During the time of the build up to the amalgamation of the armed forces, the army and police, these forces were shut down and verified names had been submitted. To bring this up after 20 years was unnecessary. The understanding was that the political heads and their commanders would write a verified list and record the number of issues that were to be dealt with. To deal with this matter now would not be good, because they would be putting unnecessary pressure on the current administration of the police. It had been possible to sort out the issues then by taking them to the proper structures such as the courts. It may be that the aggrieved parties were bringing these issues now because of economic problems, which could actually backfire on them.
Mr Z Mbhele (DA) said that his question hinged on the time frame of the matter. He asked when Regulation 11 had been passed and had come into full effect. Was there a retroactive application of the regulation if it was not in effect at the time when the applications for re-enlistment were being made in 1995? This was because it had taken them 18 years to get an official response, which was a problem in itself. Secondly, if the entire SAPS response and defence hinged on Regulation 11, had the regulation been in effect at the time? If it was not, then it was a case of retroactive application and if so, why?
Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) asked if the list was the full and final list of the people of complainers from the era and if not, were there people who had come to complain and had been taken in at the time. What were the requirements which had not been met? Had the former members had any legal representation or seek legal action? If they did, the body did not have any power to overwrite the decisions that had been made.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) asked that in the event that there was no record of the former members, was there no other way to obtain proof of their service? What would happen if it was found that a former member who was supposed to be re-enlisted had retired or had passed on?
Ms L Mabija (ANC) said that when discussing this issue there was a need to take into consideration the re-enlistment criteria that had been used. It was important to note that only those people who were being amalgamated had been considered.
The Chairperson said that the big issue, which was the basis of the dispute, was the interpretation of the initial communication from the then Commissioner.
Mr Qongqo said that he had had a problem with amalgamation because it had been politically motivated to discredit the former police members. This was because a fellow member who left the police force with them, had been currently working and had been promoted to the rank of sergeant. The member was known as Thembiso Mandla. Secondly, General Lungu, a Provincial Commissioner of the Eastern Cape, had re-enlisted members of the public who had not been members of the police force as a whole. Amalgamation had been a way of pushing the former police members out of the police force in order to accommodate the political heads` brothers and colleagues. It had been motivated by nepotism. The whole process had been conducted in a racial and discriminatory manner. That was the reason he was still fighting for justice on this matter. He did not seek any legal action, he only wanted to meet the Committee.
Mr S Twalo, Deputy Director, Legal Services, Eastern Cape, asked for clarification regarding the amalgamation, because the minute from 1995 had specifically invited people who were not in service, regardless of whether they were discharged or not. Secondly, with regard to the former police members and the officers` interaction, they had been following the issue since that time. Why was the issue not finalised? Why were they not informed of the criteria at the time of their application?
General Sitole said the he was not in a fighting mode and he was not in a position to fight. He read part of the minute that had been to do with the amalgamation, which stated that the application of members who were not part of the South African Police Service, Transkei or Ciskei police at the time of their dismissal or resignation, would not be considered. In 1994, all agencies had been called in to provide an integrated database so that it was centralised. When this database was submitted, the names of the former members had not been there, indicating that they were not members of those police agencies. The minutes also further said that the members must meet all other requirements of the re-enlistment process, which the former police members had not met.
Strong replies would not help anyone in the matter. The only way forward was to instruct the delegation to meet with the former members. If a member had been dishonorably discharged, there was nothing the delegation would be able to do. There would not be any exceptions made to the rules and criteria of the re-enlistment process. The rules must be interpreted uniformly. He was willing to look for a solution to the matter, but he would not fight the former police members.
General Govender responded to the question of whether this was the total number of the complainers, and said they were not sure, as they were not aware of what the magnitude was. The provincial management had engaged with the former police members, and this was not the first time they had reacted to the complaints. A report would be prepared for the National Commissioner, and the cases that warranted a deviation from the criteria would be taken note of, but the cases where the members had been dishonorably discharged would not warrant any deviation.
Mr J Maake (ANC) said that the cases where the former police members had been dishonorably discharged should be looked into further, to determine what had caused such an action.
Mr Mhlongo said that the provincial government was also to blame, as they were not clear as to why the members had to leave the service. If the former police members said that they had to pull out of the force due to political pressures, it would be understandable, because it was during the period of the struggle. The amalgamation had been politically guided.
Ms Kohler Barnard said that she was uncomfortable talking to one of the representatives of the 14 former police members considering his hatred for white people, which he had stated clearly. She began to ask that since the regulations for joining the force had not changed, they remained a Matric education qualification and a driving licence.
Mr Maake interjected, saying that the gentleman in question had not said that they hated white people, and that had to be corrected.
Ms Kohler Barnard continued that she had got that impression, and it was her opinion. She asked that if the former police members had met all the criteria used in the selection process, had they been given any reason as to why they were not selected into the force at any stage over the past 25years.
Mr Twalo said that the proposal was acceptable. The challenge they always had, as the legislature, was that each time they received a letter involving the two parties, the Speaker would recommend that there be a meeting between them so that they could discuss everything, but excuses would be given. However, the matter had come to the legislature in 2016. He asked the former police members to confirm that they had always been following up on the matter.
Mr Qongqo said he wanted to respond to what Ms Kohler Barnard had said earlier. He was free to say anything that pertained to him, and what he had explained was what had happened. It was not that he was fighting white people. The issue was that he had written letters to the General, only to have a reply sent back that they were already aware. They had been pushing for the issue to be heard since 1994, but to no avail. They would even visit the offices every day to get an audience, but they were ignored for no good reason. They had not taken the issue to court because they had wanted to meet the Committee. If they had taken it to court, they would have eliminated any opportunity to meet the Committee.
He begged the Committee to help them. The motivation was not money, but to serve. There had been nepotism in the SAPS with regards to the re-enlistment. The reason for mentioning white people had been that during the apartheid era, the umbrella body under SAPS had been comprised mainly of white people. He did not hate white people -- he was just seeking a solution to his problem. He asked that their issue should not be hand over to the SAPS, because they would not assist them.
Mr Maake said that he had not heard the former members accept what the National Commissioner had said, and that had to be clarified.
Mr Qongqo responded that if the Commissioner would re-enlist them like the other re-enlisted members, they would accept it.
The Chairperson said that it was important to note that the procedure would be followed. They had received the petition of 10 paragraphs, they had heard the petitioner, they had asked the responsible department for input, and they had received a commitment from the National Commissioner to engage.
He asked Mr Qongqo to submit any of the relevant documents that he had presented during the meeting to the Committee secretary.
The Chairperson led the Committee to check the minutes of past Portfolio Committee meetings, and some corrections were made. As most of minutes were from joint committee meetings, they agreed not to adopt them without the other committees that took part in those meetings. The Committee secretary suggested that the Members could still go through the minutes, but the Members opted to go through only the minutes that involved the Portfolio Committee on Police only.
The meeting was adjourned.
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