Durban - KwaZulu-Natal police boss Mmamonnye Ngobeni’s refusal to approve a promotion because of the police’s “representivity targets” was unfair and irrational.
This was the ruling of Durban Labour Court acting Judge Raven Harkoo this month in a case dealing with the promotion of policeman Sewlall Ranoo.
Judge Harkoo upheld the decision of an arbitration commissioner who ruled that Ranoo be appointed to the rank of captain and be given backpay and benefits.
There have been similar recent judgments overruling promotions based on national racial demographics where it was found the cases had been unfairly handled.
The case of Gauteng policewoman Renate Barnard, who was overlooked for a promotion twice because of her race, may set legal precedent as it is now before the Constitutional Court.
The Concourt has to decide whether to grant the police ministry leave to appeal against a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment which found that the refusal to promote her had been unfair discrimination.
In Ranoo’s case, he said he had 27 years of service and had applied for a promotion to captain, based at Durban Central police station, in 2009. He had previously worked in the position and had been sent for the requisite training.
The position was one of 112 in the country.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the posts had to be filled by 11 African men, six Indian or white men and 10 coloured men in terms of national demographics.
Despite Ranoo scoring the highest points and being recommended for the position by the evaluation panel, Ngobeni rejected the promotion.
She referred the matter back to the evaluation panel but did not give her reasons in writing as is required by the police department’s national instructions.
The panel then recommended a Warrant Officer Ngubo, who had the second-highest score, for the post and he was appointed in 2010.
Ranoo took the matter further and, after an arbitration hearing, commissioner Karen Charles ruled in his favour.
The police department then applied to the Labour Court for the award to be reviewed as it argued that Charles had “usurped the power” of national police minister Nathi Mthethwa by ordering that Ranoo be promoted.
In his judgment, Judge Harkoo said Ngobeni had failed to apply her mind to the issue.
“The provincial commissioner has a duty to furnish justifiable reasons for her decision.
“She was required to provide written reasons for not accepting the recommendation and her failure to do so illustrates that she acted irrationally and capriciously.”
He also said a General M Ngcobo, who sat on the evaluation panel, testified before the arbitration hearing that he did not know why Ngobeni had rejected the promotion as she had told him to consider representivity.
Ngcobo said the position had been in operations and planning and said the job would not have been in the “career stream” of Ngubo, who worked in the charge office.
Judge Harkoo said Ngcobo testified that Ranoo was “highly competent” and the panel had believed his appointment would have been “in line with the demographics”.
The acting judge said the equity targets the police placed before the arbitration hearing had been “irreconcilable and contradictory”.
The police’s Johannes Ramathoka testified that the targets showed six Indian males could have been appointed yet the department’s statistics showed there was an oversubscription of Indian males.
He could not explain this discrepancy but said to promote African males would be fair discrimination because there were not enough in the department.