Fifteen highly trained Gauteng flying squad and K9 unit members are headed for the Pretoria High Court after being told that they may no longer perform duties in these specialised units or arrive for duty without an official call-up instruction.
They are among the more than 2 000 reservists operating within the specialised units of the police.
They will ask the court in an urgent application to order Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to provide written reasons as to why reservists within the specialised units in Gauteng are no longer allowed to perform their functions. They will also ask that the instruction be lifted until the finalisation of a review application in this regard.
The application was served before court a week ago, but was removed from the roll as the police had not yet filed their opposing papers. The police have meanwhile stated their side, and lawyers acting for the reservists said the matter would be enrolled again within a week or two.
The police’s Gauteng 10111 emergency centre commander, Brigadier Vuyokazi Ndebele, issued a verbal instruction in January that no reservist could perform duties in the specialised units (such as the dog unit and the flying squad), drive a state vehicle, or arrive for duty without an official call-up instruction.
Roodepoort businessman Andrew Barnard, one of the reservists who is bringing the application, said in court papers that they were performing an invaluable service to the police and the public. They were highly skilled and trained, patrolled the highways and byways, and provided a rapid response back-up service to often inexperienced permanent police members.
They did this work in their free time, did not get or want remuneration, nor did they want to be permanently employed, he added.
Barnard said they were in the dark over this sudden decision. While he and the others did not know the reasons, they suspected they could be connected to incidents before the instruction.
One was when a woman who claimed she was the Gauteng MEC for safety and security was pulled over by two on-duty reservists for driving excessively slowly on a national road. “She was highly unco-operative,” he said.
He added that a week after this incident, two reservists working on a national road were stopped by Ndebele. She got out of her car and asked why they were speeding. Barnard said their blue lights were on and they were on their way to a hijacking scene. He suspected that she might also have been upset as they did not go to her car, but she had to go to theirs.
According to Barnard the instruction to give them the boot was issued the next day.
“We are reservists and most of us are simply passionate about combating crime and protecting all South Africans.”
He said they had a right to act as reservists and they were helpful in assisting police to protect the public. More police vehicles could also be employed and thus a bigger area could be patrolled.
Barnard said there was no shortage of police vehicles or firearms, but there were simply too few police officers. He handed pictures to court showing the parking ground of the West Rand flying squad after the directive banning them from working went out. Almost none of the cars had been moved. “The operational members of the permanent force indicated they desperately need our services. (Currently) there are only one or two vehicles covering a huge area (in the West Rand).”
Deputy provincial commissioner Thabethe Mpembe said there was nothing untoward about this decision and it was not sparked by the incidents mentioned by Barnard. He said it was simply decided that reservists should be removed from the specialised units and placed at ground level – at police stations where more staff were needed. He said their duties were not terminated, but they were being placed where they were needed most. They also were not permitted drive state-owned cars, as they are not formally employed by the SAPS. “It is denied that the verbal instruction included a prohibition for reservists to perform duties without an official call-up instruction… Reservists must be utilised in line with the operational needs of the SAPS and cannot merely book themselves on duty when and how they wish.” - Pretoria News