Durban - A rift between Metro Police officers and their management has led to the deliberate spoiling of over 60 percent of all hand-written fines in the past year, and the resultant loss of R30 million for the city.
The Sunday Tribune can reveal that an internal audit, and statistics gathered on road traffic citations issued by officers, identified the practice which is still going on.
Any error on a written fine means the document cannot be processed in court.
The city police force of nearly 2 500 is in disarray. Union officials and politicians have blamed poor leadership and have called for the resignation of Metro Police head Eugene Nzama and his controversial logistics head, Innocent Chamane.
A senior officer, who asked not to be named, confirmed that statistics gathered by metro cops revealed that more than 60 percent of handwritten traffic citations had been spoiled. Their secret report, submitted to city manager Sbu Sithole late last year, also reveals rifts between senior officers and management.
The Sunday Tribune has a copy of the report that says Nzama’s management style angered officers.
“We are not disgruntled officers, but career policemen with an average of 20 years of experience and our decision to challenge Nzama was born out of despair at seeing our once-proud force in perpetual decline,” it reads.
The report cites Nzama’s irregular appointment of Chamane. “After Nzama learnt Chamane was not a recommended candidate he had the panel nullified and formed a new panel that he chaired.”
Widespread dissent within Durban’s metro police has seen officers deliberately spoiling handwritten traffic fines, resulting in a loss of nearly R30 million in revenue for the city over the past year.
The Sunday Tribune can reveal that the force of nearly 2 500, which issues thousands of fines a month, is in disarray.
Internal reports and statistics show that more than half of all fines issued by officers have been deliberately spoiled. The trend was identified last year in an internal memorandum, seen by the Sunday Tribune, and continues unabated.
Union officials and politicians described the demonstration as a symptom of poor leadership and called for the resignation of metro police head Eugene Nzama and his controversial logistics head, Innocent Chamane.
A senior officer, who cannot be named for fear of retribution, confirmed that statistics gathered by metro police had shown that more than 60 percent of handwritten traffic citations had been spoiled.
“The writing of a traffic fine is not complicated and these officers were trained in how to do this. They are intentionally spoiling the fines because they are irate with management,” he said.
“They know that airing their grievances has got them nowhere, so they hit the city where it hurts most,” he added. “Captains are now having to go through each fine issued by officers in their command, but that achieves nothing, because once the fine is issued on the street, no alterations can be made to the duplicate, which goes to the court for processing.”
Another officer said stacks of spoiled fines were piled up at stations across the city.
“There are so many ways that they (officers) can spoil the fine, by simply leaving a digit out of the registration number, being vague about the location, or making a mistake about the colour of the vehicle, and the fine is a waste. They are doing this because they are frustrated and this is an outlet.”
Three independent police sources, all in senior management, confirmed the practice.
Topping their gripes list is the closure of the metro police stores department, which has resulted in a uniform shortage.
- Allegations of nepotism.
- Unfair allocation of overtime.
- No bulletproof vests.
- More than 600 officers are not issued with firearms.
A secret report drafted by senior metro police officers and submitted to city manager Sbu Sithole late last year reveals internal rifts between senior officers and management.
According to the report, of which the Sunday Tribune has a copy, Nzama’s management style has fostered ill-discipline and anger among officers.
“We are not disgruntled officers, but career policemen with an average of 20 years of experience and our decision to challenge Nzama was born out of despair at seeing our once- proud force in perpetual decline,” it reads.
“His often erratic conduct, autocratic management style and disregard of procedures are a major contributor to a declining standard of performance in the force and the prevailing ill-discipline.”
The report cites the irregular appointment of Chamane by Nzama. “After Nzama learnt that Chamane was not a recommended candidate he had the panel nullified and formed a new panel which he chaired.”
ROT SETS IN
DA executive council member Heinz de Boer said: “While metro has always had its fair share of controversy, the rot has really started to set in over the past 12 to 18 months. In fact, the dramas that play out in metro speak of an almost dysfunctional police force that is in serious need of review and the dismissal of many incompetents and criminals who wear a uniform,” he added.
“Officers deliberately spoiling traffic fines must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but at the same time this points to a deeper level of discontent in the force. Members have been subjected to a management structure that seems almost incapable of managing the most basic of requirements, such as uniforms, bulletproof vests and firearms.
“The dismal situation at the horse unit where the grooming contract was cancelled, a lack of food for police dogs, the ludicrous directive that old police dogs should be euthanised and the perpetual forming of cliques and cabals in the force have eroded public confidence and the morale of decent and honest officers.
“Quite how we expect officers to perform their duties efficiently with ill-fitting and old uniforms, undernourished dogs and in some cases no firearms baffles me,” he said.
“But those officers found responsible must be tracked down and fired. There’s simply no alternative. I would challenge the mayor, in the interests of honesty and transparency, to instruct the city manager to seriously expose the flaws of metro in a public report to the council and that those who are literally ruining the force be given the boot. Whether the ANC will do this remains to be seen, as when it comes to issues like this where comrades could potentially lose their jobs it’s often easier to adopt the ostrich head in the sand approach,” he said.
South African Municipal Workers Union regional secretary Jaycee Ncanana said spoiling fines was a symptom of mismanagement and cadre deployment in the leadership.
“The only solution now is to remove Innocent Chamane from his position. Since his arrival things have not been in order and you don’t need a degree to understand that the metro police are in disarray,” he said.
“From what we can see it looks as if the situation is deteriorating every day and he doesn’t understand the dynamics of his post and he has no idea how to manage his staff and solve their problems,” he added.
“The current abhorrent state of the police is an indictment of Eugene Nzama’s leadership and he cannot be allowed to shirk responsibility.
“This is the same man who was appointed when someone with experience in policing experience should be doing his job. He was imposed on people who know how to do the job better than he does. Now he brought in another person (Chamane) who is full of ignorance about how the metro police operate, this does not help the situation.
“The head doesn’t understand his job, and his top assistant (Chamane) is also in the dark. Metro police is crucial in the running of Durban and they are failing. If they cannot perform their duties and people do not face the consequences of breaking the law, it means we are in crisis. Why should people feel obliged to obey the rules of the road?” he added.
Numerous attempts to contact Chamane and Nzama proved unsuccessful.
eThekwini communications head Tozi Mthethwa said the matter of spoilt fines would be investigated.
“eThekwini Municipality views the allegations of spoiled fines issued by metro police officers in Durban very seriously and will investigate this matter,” she said.
“The municipality has an internal grievance process in place and all employees have the right to lodge a grievance,” she added, while failing to respond to specific questions put to her.