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All enlisted police officers should have a driver's licence but the SA Police Service (SAPS) would not exclude those from a poor background who do not have one, a spokesman said on Friday.
“The idea is not to say that we are getting rid of the licence requirement for enlistment, it is still a requirement,” spokesman Lieutenat-General Solomon Makgale said.
“It is important giving our history and operational needs that we ensure that we do not exclude people from poor backgrounds purely on the basis of not having a licence.”
He said it was reasonable to expect that people from poor communities did not have licences.
“We have allocated 10 percent of our total intake to people from poor backgrounds who do not have driver's licences,” he said.
This did not only mean people from rural backgrounds.
“We are not going to exclude you (because) you are from a poor background despite living in a semi-urban area,” said Makgale.
Recruits would have to prove that they came from a poor background in order to be considered.
About five percent - 10 500 - of the current 200 000-strong police service do not have licences, he said.
The police had plans in place to assist police recruits to obtain their licences before they are enlisted.
On Thursday, national police chief Riah Phiyega officiated at an event where the SAPS and the Safety and Security Education and Training Authority (Sasseta) entered into an agreement to provide training on motor vehicle driving skills to 1 000 officers during the 2014/15 financial year.
Phiyega said the recruitment of police officers without driving licences was a strategy to “level the playing field” for people affected mainly by poverty and inequality.
Police officers would be taken for driving lessons after the May 7 elections, under the Sasseta agreement.
Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu said a driving course incorporated into the basic police training would extend the lifespan and working condition of vehicles.
Due to this requirement, many prospective police officers ended up “buying” the licences and mishandling state vehicles.
Two testing centres, in Gauteng and the Western Cape, were established internally to assist officers to get driving licences. - Sapa