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Durban - Twenty-three Durban policemen suspected of involvement in several murders have defied an instruction to go on leave pending internal disciplinary charges for misconduct.
Despite an order by national Hawks boss, Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat, the defiant officers reported for duty on Monday at the offices of the Durban Organised Crime Unit in Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment).
This happened in the wake of them being handed notices of intention to suspend them – a day after being told to take leave.
The embattled members of the disbanded Organised Crime Unit – Cato Manor have until 4pm today to explain why they should not be suspended. Their attorney, Carl van der Merwe, sent a letter to Dramat’s office yesterday, asking for an extension of time to make representations.
Hawks spokesman, McIntosh Polela, who acknowledged that the issues surrounding the Cato Manor unit – which is alleged to have murdered 28 people – was of “huge public interest”, declined to comment, or to arrange an interview with Dramat.
“This is an internal process. I cannot comment on it,” he said.
However, Unisa criminologist, Professor Rudolph Zinn, has described Dramat’s instruction for members to use their annual leave as unprecedented.
He slated the move as unfair and criticised police management for their inability to separate criminal and labour processes.
“I have never heard of such a thing in the police,” Zinn said. “Members are generally placed on special leave. Asking them to use their annual leave is unfair. This leave can be quantified and it means them losing money.
“It is clear the police do not have their ducks in a row. By instructing them to take leave and then threatening them with suspension opens the door for criticism of how disorganised the police administration system is.”
Zinn said the move was probably a tactic to buy time, because the suspension notices were not ready. “The police did not want to face further embarrassment.”
He said police management should allow a fair process for the criminal charges.
“The criminal process is up to the courts. That is where the confusion comes in. The police must focus on the labour aspect,” he said.
“The labour rules should be transparent to both parties. If it is kept from the employees then it could create room for transgression. For instance, if they did not pitch for work, they could have been told they should have reported for duty.”
The Hawks’ KwaZulu-Natal head, Major-General Johan Booysen, who has also been charged, was not instructed, but asked by Dramat to go on annual leave.
Booysen said on Monday that he agreed, but his leave form had not yet been signed by Dramat. He, too, was back at work.
On Thursday night, Booysen was contacted telephonically by a senior human resource officer and informed he would be served with a notice of intention to suspend. He asked for the notice to be sent to Van der Merwe’s office. To date this has not happened.
“I am back at work. I have called General Dramat and SMSed him several times yesterday [in connection with the leave]. To date I have not heard from him. Until I do, I will go ahead with my duties.”
The 23 members were ordered on leave in writing by Dramat on Wednesday, and they apparently agreed to co-operate, even filling out the leave forms.
But they changed their minds when they received the notices of intention to suspend, at about 9pm on Thursday.
On Friday afternoon, Dramat was informed via e-mail that the members had cancelled their leave.
In February this year, the same members had been issued with notices of intention to suspend for using “excessive force” in their duties.
A week later, they were informed in writing of a departmental investigation into their alleged “death squad” activities.
Both notices had been signed by Dramat, but to date, nothing has come of them.
Sources close to the unit have described the latest move as yet another “dirty tactic” by police management to distance themselves from the charged policemen.
According to the notice of intention to suspend, the arrest of the members and the seriousness of the charges in the indictment, placed their integrity, and that of the police, in question. The notice stated it was not in the public or police interest for the members to remain in their positions.
“There is grave danger of harm to the reputation of the SAPS should you remain in your position ...” the notice read.
It further stated the police would be instituting charges of misconduct against them, adding: “No proper investigation into charges of misconduct can be conducted while you remain in your position.”
Zinn said the process for suspension of police officers was clearly stipulated in the national standing orders.
“In the past few years, I have noticed that police management has not been adhering to the standing orders. It seems like different rules apply for different people at different times,” he said.
“This makes the concept of fair conduct difficult to understand.”
Zinn said the danger of this was it confused police officials tasked with enforcing the standing orders, and had huge implications for the affected members.
“The national commissioner is allowed to override the standing orders. But, often this creates total disregard for due process.”
Zinn said it was disheartening to see the improper channels of administration being employed by the police.
“The danger of not adhering to the standing orders is that it can also open the police to civil claims by these members,” he said. - Daily News