Biggest Fashion Sale Of The Year! Shop 12 000 Up To 70% OFF!
Both Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and national police commissioner Riah Phiyega will have to explain to the court on Thursday why Phiyega had restructured the police’s top management without consulting the unions.
The South African Police Union filed papers in the Johannesburg Labour Court earlier this week to stop Phiyega’s changes which she announced to senior staff on September 1.
These changes included that Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola, who has been in charge of operational services, would become Limpopo provincial commissioner.
Lieutenant General Christine Mgwenya, Leah Mofomme, Godfrey Lebeya and Henry Mazibuko were to become deputy national commissioners.
Phiyega brought in former Free State police chief, Lieutenant General Khehla Sithole, as deputy national commissioner for policing.
Former chief financial officer Lieutenant General Stefan Schutte is now head of resource management and Lieutenant General Christabel Mbekela, who headed the human resources department, is now in charge of corporate service management.
Lawyers representing the unions will ask the court to halt the restructuring, arguing that it would be impossible to reverse it.
The SAPS is opposing the matter.
However, according to an affidavit by the union’s chief negotiator, Barend Barnard, restructuring will have a domino effect that will eventually affect the entire police service.
Barnard said the union had tried to avoid litigation by addressing the issue directly to Phiyega, with no response. It had also filed a position paper at the bargaining council and had called for an urgent meeting to discuss the paper. Still, they claimed, there had been no response from Phiyega.
If “a unilateral restructuring” went ahead, the union and its members would be prejudiced, they argued.
There was however no prejudice for the police to suspend the process until it consulted at the bargaining council as there was no urgency for implementation. The restructuring has already started and some of the police chiefs have already taken up their positions.
“This will entail material changes to the functions and duties of the officials under them, as well as a shifting of their reporting structures, transfers to other divisions and movement to other stations,” said Barnard.
The union is arguing that Phiyega should first have “meaningful consultation” with everyone at the Safety and Security Sector Bargaining Council as restructuring is a matter that was was listed in a resolution signed at the council in 2009.
The resolution deals with rules of engagement between the police and the trade unions.
“The objectives of the resolution are to maintain a harmonious working relationship between the two, to ensure good faith bargaining and and mutual respect,” he said.
But instead Phiyega issued a statement on August 31 talking about streamlining the organisational structure, said Barnard, which was not communicated to the unions representing officials in the police.
The union, he said, had heard about the proposed restructuring in a press statement.
Prior to the restructuring, the police’s organisational structure had 23 divisions, with six deputy national commissioners reporting directly to Phiyega. Following the changes, there were 25 divisions, three deputy national commissioners and the Hawks unit.
“A proper analysis of the two structures reveals that the streamlining operation was not simply a moving around of managerial functions on an organisational structure, but a merger of certain divisions with others, the removal of some divisions and the creation of new divisions,” said Barnard.
This amounted to the restructuring process in the resolution.
In the 15-page affidavit, Barnard details several meetings scheduled to take place between September and October on the matter.
He expected the police to arrange a formal meeting to discuss the restructuring before taking any steps.
But instead, on September 1, he learnt through shop stewards that some of the generals were moving into their new offices.
When the meeting eventually took place on October 8, police contended that “no restructuring took place and that only senior management were moved to fill critical gaps within the police structure”, according to Barnard.
This contention was however untenable, said Barnard.
National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale said the court would test the definition of what constituted restructuring. Previous changes similar to the current one had been done without consulting the unions.
He said some union leaders felt they could “dictate” appointments to Phiyega. “(The police have) had a number of meetings with Sapu on this matter and indicated to them that they are mistaken. They effectively want to encroach on the legal mandate of the national commissioner to organise her office in such a way that she is able to deliver on the constitutional mandate of the South African Police Service.
“In terms of our prescripts, all that was required of the national commissioner prior to making the decision was for her to discuss the new reporting lines with the individuals concerned.
Police Ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi referred queries to Makgale.