The last recruitment drive for metro police officers in eThekwini was in 2009.
Durban - ‘Political camps” within eThekwini Municipality are hindering the hiring of Durban Metro Police officers, resulting in about 1000 vacancies.

Officers, constables, sergeants and inspectors were all desperately needed at operational level, but no one appeared to be pushing to eradicate the “camps” to make the metro police a fully functional unit. The last recruitment drive for eThekwini was in 2009.

These “damning” statistics were contained in a document prepared by the council’s own human resources department and tabled in a recent safety and emergency services committee.

Durban North ward councillor Shaun Ryley, who sits on the committee, said the information was damning. “As councillors we regularly get complaints from people about metro police not enforcing the by-laws, from simple things like traffic congestion when traffic lights are out to other criminal issues. And for a long time, there has been no information forthcoming as to what is going on in the metro police department.

“Now, after a long time, this information has come before the committee and it paints an alarming picture. We do not have the necessary number of officers on the ground to enforce the by-laws and make us a well-run municipality. Worse yet is that there are political influences affecting the appointment of staff,” said Ryley.

In the document, the total vacancy status as at the end of January this year stood at 1118.

Ryley said that according to other supporting documents, provision had been made in the budget for 276 staff to be hired. “However, this still means we are left with an incredibly high vacancy rate,” he added.

The problems were listed as:

Politics around certain positions;

Issues with certain job descriptions in logistics need to be reviewed;

Issues with the qualifications: in terms of diplomas, two meetings scheduled by human resources were cancelled by management - not ready in terms of decision (inspector and captain positions);

Camps within the unit causing inability to function as expected;

Management to make decisions fast to improve service delivery;

Get rid of factions;

Reduction of barriers to making decisions.

“These reasons are not acceptable. Why must politics interfere in service delivery? We will be taking the issue further at our committee meeting and to full council to demand answers to these issues,” said Ryley.

Removal

Durban Metro Police has been beset with issues since some officers demanded the removal of Eugene Nzama as its head and the department was put under the care of the city manager.

eThekwini M unicipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa would not directly answer questions on how many staff members Durban Metro Police had, but offered examples of their work.

“The city has a vigorous recruitment process spearheaded by a dedicated team of line managers and staff members from the human resources unit. All recruitment matters in the municipality are addressed through relevant internal structures. Our metro police officers have been working around the clock, ensuring the safety of the city’s residents, enforcing municipal by-laws and arresting errant drivers and residents.

“A new metro police unit, created to diffuse protests in the city, has been established, with an impressive response time of six minutes.

“The recently established multi-operational response team unit has had numerous successes to date, including ending large protests in under 45 minutes, while also contributing to preventing land invasions and possible invasions of other major municipal installations and projects.

“The unit consists of various teams, including public order policing whose members work four shifts to ensure they are operational 24 hours a day. There is also the rapid response team, crime prevention, and planning and communications teams.”

Mthethwa refused to answer when pressed on the vacancy rate.

Deputy mayor Fawzia Peer, who chairs the security and emergency services committee, also refused to answer questions and referred queries to Nzama. Nzama’s office said he was busy and had sent a request for the HR department to respond to the media query.

The questions asked were: how many officers are currently employed? What is the vacancy rate? What is the desired number of officers, or officer/population ratio needed?

The municipal officials did not supply any answers.

Violence monitor Mary de Haas said the number of vacancies was alarming, and the veil of secrecy involved in all municipal operations was unacceptable.

“There are so many issues that Metro Police has to answer, and the reasons for the vacancy rate is one of the worst. If there are no officers, then who is out on the streets enforcing the by-laws?” she asked.

De Haas added that municipal officials forgot that they reported to the people, and no information could be left out. “We see police vans sitting idle and yet we hear of such a high vacancy rate,” she said.