Angry police officers have threatened to go on strike over a contentious promotions agreement, which could hamper the police’s festive-season crime crackdown.
This is despite being categorised as essential services staff who are barred from withdrawing their labour
Police anger stems from accusations that Police Minister Bheki Cele reneged on his promise made at a media briefing in March to, within three months, fix the promotions issue, after only 32000 members were promoted, while 45000 others remain in limbo.
Allegations are that these promotions were created to only benefit specialised and elite units – including the tactical response team, commonly known as Amaberete – at the expense of rank-and-file, visible and station officers, as well as detectives, among other members.
An agreement signed in December last year by the SA Police Service and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) detailed a three-year programme to re-grade and promote officers, starting with elite-unit members.
This drew the ire of thousands of officers, and Cele promised in March to resolve this issue in three months.
“The three months have long lapsed. Station commanders were called to a meeting, but the minister and national commissioner (General Khehla Sitole) remain mum with no feedback or progress reports. The unions also won’t give us feedback,” a senior police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
In the current and next financial years, officers from public order policing, mobile units, detectives, the Hawks and station police – among others – were to be re-graded and promoted.
However, this process seems to have stalled as a result of a lack of government funds to compensate officers for their promotions.
The Star has been privy to social media chat groups, where officers expressed their fury, with many – using their official names and ranks on the sites – alleging that recent academy graduates were being promoted ahead of senior members with decades of service.
The Star sent questions to both Cele and Sitole’s offices. Responding on their behalf, SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo confirmed that a “task team” had been convened by Sitole to address the issue of promotions.
“That team has been hard at work and significant strides have been made to ensure that officers’ promotions from constable to sergeant and sergeant to warrant officer are realised.
“With regards to the backlog of promotions which the minister has alluded to since his Budget Vote Speech in May 2017, that is being addressed over three financial years, with the final list of members due to be promoted in the next 2020-21 financial year,” Naidoo said.
He warned that since police are an essential service, any strike action taken could lead to dismissal.
However, unions slammed government and SAPS, with the SA Police Union’s president Mpho Kwinika saying promotions time lines-will not be met as it takes two years to do job evaluations.
“Critical officers will remain at their current ranks because the government has no money,” Kwinika said.
Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said: “It is sad that at every turn towards improving worker conditions, we are given excuses of funding.”