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Two metro police recruits who were dismissed from a training college over the length and styling of their hair were due to report for training on Wednesday – after scoring a victory in court.
The pair were fired three weeks ago for refusing to cut their hair short “as that of men”.
Suzanne Terry of Môregloed and Elizna von Mollendorff of Eersterus turned to the North Gauteng High Court to obtain an urgent order to be reinstated.
Both now sport short hair after an instructor allegedly grabbed them and forcefully cut their hair at a parade ground.
The pair, who were not at court on Tuesday, refused to be photographed or to speak to the media, pointing to a clause in their contracts with the Tshwane Metro Council.
It is, however, understood that they had the damage to their hair repaired by visiting their own hairdressers. The trainee metro police, with the help of trade union Imatu, obtained the order to be reinstated without the court hearing argument from the council.
Judge Louis Visser was told that the council had filed opposing papers on the eve of the hearing, although it had known about the application for some time.
The council said it did not have time to prepare the papers in time and said the matter was in any event not urgent. Counsel for the trainees said it was indeed urgent, as they were kicked off the course three weeks ago and had to catch up as soon as possible.
Judge Visser agreed and refused to accept the Tshwane council’s opposing papers, before ordering that the two women return to college.
The pair’s ordeal started on December 3 while on parade at a training facility in Pretoria West. An instructor told them their hair was too long and that they had to cut it short.
The instructor styles her hair very short and Terry and Von Mollendorff regarded it similar to a male hairstyle. They refused to have their hair cut in that fashion. A senior superintendent told them “it’s not what you want, but what we want”.
They said that while lining up, instructor Annie Ndlovu shouted words to the effect “you white people think you don’t have to cut your hair”. She told them to wait for her while the other students left.
Ndlovu first grabbed Von Mollendorff, scissors in hand, and started cutting locks off her hair. Von Mollendorff said that while trying to cover her head, her finger got cut.
Terry, who was next, said she was grabbed in such a violent manner that she experienced a “burning feeling” in her neck. Her hair was also cut short.
Following their grievance against Ndlovu’s conduct, she was charged and convicted of misconduct after pleading guilty. Ndlovu was dismissed, but she subsequently appealed against this sanction. She is back at work while her case is being reviewed.
While the two trainees remained at the training facility, they received letters three weeks ago informing them that their training agreements had been terminated as they had, five months earlier, disobeyed a lawful instruction (to cut their hair short).
Metro police chief Stephen Ngobeni said their training agreements were terminated as they had failed to abide by an instruction.
Ngobeni said an instructor had told all the trainees with long hair to cut it short – both male and female. Ngobeni explained they conduct obstacle tests, climb walls, roll on hard surfaces and train under water. Long hair could make this dangerous as it could get stuck on obstacles.
He said Ndlovu’s dismissal had nothing to do with the instruction to cut their hair, but rather the way she went about cutting it herself and in the process cutting Von Mollendorff’s finger.
Metro police spokesman Isaac Mahamba said they would respect the court order, and study the matter to decide the way forward.