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South African Policing Union (Sapu) Provincial Secretary Solly Bulala (in front) with applicants Mosa Moloto, Rampadi Rakhoma, Modimetja Modisha, Koena Mokwele and Matee Molele. (Photo: Yolande Nel)

Claims of VIP Protection guard ‘casualties’ escalate


Alleged political manoeuvring and top level meddling are being blamed for a blind eye to escalating claims of so-called casualties of management of the Police’s elite VIP protection guard in Limpopo. Matters seem to be taking a turn for the worst as four long-serving officials attached to the Static Protection Services Unit brought forth complaints about non-payment of salaries and backdated remuneration going back to mid-2016.
Failure to report for posting at the Legislature in Lebowa­kgomo to beef up security at a time of expected heightened risk of disruptions in November 2014 in the absence of proper transportation arrangements on the insistence of Mosa Moloto, Rampadi Rakhoma, Modimetja Modisha and Koena Mokwele led to their initial dismissal and subsequent reinstatement. However, demands for reimbursement of their salaries have since fallen on deaf ears while they continue to report on duty on a daily basis without the prospects of getting their pay or backdated remuneration as dictated by an arbitration order of the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council (SSSBC) in Limpopo, it was learnt.
Polokwane Observer was informed that the applicants were all charged for similar misconduct based on, among others, abseentism, insubordination, disrespect and endangering the safety of Parliamentarians on 8 April 2015 and all dismissed on 8 April last year, but still paid until the end of July 2016. An arbitration process followed and on 24 November last year a ruling was made in their favour for them to report back on duty the following month.
Order for re-instatement of four applicants
In terms of the arbitration award, the Police were ordered to re-instate the four men to their positions on the same terms and conditions or terms and conditions that were no less favourable than the ones applied before their dismissal. The reinstatement was retrospectively effective from 9 April 2016 and they were supposed to report back for duty on 15 December 2016. As a result of the retrospective nature of the re-instatement, the employer was further ordered to pay each applicant an amount they could have earned in salary from the date of dismissal until the date of re-instatement.
The four applicants maintained that they didn’t refuse an order after a national instruction had been issued for a posting at the Legislature in Lebowakgomo to fulfil their duties as from 10 November 2014 for the ensuing three months, but that their request for transport to and from Lebowakgomo was denied. They emphasised that Protection and Security Services (PSS) Provincial Head Joseph Makushu had allegedly violated the instruction by deploying members to the Legislature permanently and when the matter was raised changed the arrangement to duty on rotational basis for the three-month period without any arrangements having been made for transport and accommodation.
Refusal to be subjected to unsafe travelling arrangements
It was learnt that in total five of the 17 members who were supposed to report for duty in Lebowakgomo at the time refused to travel by hitching rides to the Legislature, a method suggested by the Provincial Commander of the VIP Protection Unit, Ben Olivier, as they regarded it unsafe travelling circumstances. From documentation made available to Polokwane Observer it was established that the fifth person to have initially been charged disciplinarily had entered into a plea bargain with the employer and was given a sanction of dismissal that was suspended.
According to the testimony of the applicants quoted in the documentation the Police provided transport to the Legislature each time there was a sitting and that deployment was not their initiative and therefore they couldn’t be expected to incur expenses. The decision from the employer to refuse transport to the members in order to save the lifespan of Police vehicles was considered unreasonable. The documentation further pointed at a lack of accommodation arrangements for affected members.
The documentation contains references to the testimony of then VIP-in-Transit Unit Commander, Matee Molele who reckoned the instruction for placement did not comply with deployment requirements and was vague, reckless and irrational. He was quoted saying it was the responsibility of the unit commander to transport them to where they were to be deployed.
Molele is engrossed in a battle of his own as he has still not been reinstatement in his former position at PSS since the end of 2016. In December last year and January this year Polokwane Observer reported on Sapu considering action against the Police and also against Makushu in particular for reportedly refusing Molele access to his workplace in spite of a directive from the national headquarters in that regard.
Through South African Policing Union (Sapu) Provincial Secretary Solly Bulala the applicants explained that the arbitrator has found that the dismissal of the applicants was procedurally fair but substantively unfair.
Bulala emphasised that the Police were not adhering to the order to have payment to the applicants reinstated. Bulala continued stating that Sapu leadership in the province was very disturbed about the continuous conduct of Makushu, who was seen to be nursed by individuals attached to the national and provincial Police structure and political role players who all ignored pleas for intervention in the matter as well as that of Molele in the past. “He continues to persecute Police officers while knowing nothing will be done because he is a favourite with the top brass.”
Sapu to turn to court, Public Protector, SAHRC
Bulala said Sapu in Limpopo intended to consult with their legal advisors this week to have all the cases sped up and possibly taken to the Labour Court. The union also considered approaching the Public Protector and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Bulala concluded.
SAPS comment
Comment from Limpopo Police Communication, Liaison and Marketing Head Motlafela Mojapelo is quoted verbatim: “The issues of remuneration of members and other conditions of service are the issues between an employer and employees. We are therefore not at liberty to discuss them in the media. The affected members know the channels that are existent within the Police Service and are therefore urged to make use of them.”