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Durban - DURBAN metro police boss Eugene Nzama is demanding R2 million in damages from the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), which he belongs to, for alleged defamation.
He is preparing to issue summons if it does not pay up.
The demand arises from allegations the union is said to have made last year when it called for Nzama’s removal from office as eThekwini police head, according to Nzama’s lawyer, Zane Haneef.
In a letter sent to Jaycee Ncanana, the union’s regional secretary, Ncanana is accused of circulating a Memorandum of Grievances during a march by city police officers last year in which, among other things:
l A call was made for a competent candidate to replace Nzama, who was described as being “unfit to run the police department”.
l There were claims of misuse and abuse of police vehicles on Nzama’s instructions.
l Nzama was implicated in the construction of the Albert Park police building using his private construction company.
Haneef told the Daily News that the legal action was aimed at clearing his client’s name.
“Mr Nzama’s name has been dragged through the mud and the allegations that have been levelled against him also led to city manager S’bu Sithole placing him on three months’ special leave at the time, despite there being no factual basis or substance to the allegations,” he said.
“Despite our letters of demand for evidence to back up the claims that were trumped up against my client, we have not received any response to date.
“The baseless allegations have damaged the reputation of my client and impaired his dignity.”
Haneef said Nzama was a paying member of Samwu and felt that the union had failed to protect him during strikes by metro police officers last year.
Metro police officers, including Samwu members, took to the streets last year threatening to make the city ungovernable if Sithole failed to act on their demand to remove Nzama from office.
Samwu also reportedly accused Nzama of nepotism, maladministration and “harassing taxi operators” in the city.
The demands subsequently led to his suspension, but it was lifted after the police chief threatened court action. That matter is continuing.
Ncanana yesterday dismissed the demand as a “cheap attempt” by Nzama to intimidate the union.
“This is a gross intimidation by the metro boss for us not to raise our concerns about him, but we won’t succumb to it,” he said.
“He can intimidate us all he likes, but we will continue to protest and march against him until he has left the force.”
The union would not respond to the letter of demand, Ncanana said. “He can’t just ask for R2m without obtaining a court order. This is not R10 that he’s asking us for.”
When asked if the union would take Nzama seriously if he went to court, Ncanana said: “He can take us to court. We are familiar with court and we will defend ourselves to the bitter end.”
On the investigation by former city manager Michael Sutcliffe, which acquitted Nzama of wrongdoing, Ncanana said the findings were flawed.
“None of the shop stewards, including myself, were ever interviewed after we raised the allegations,” he said.
Ncanana said Nzama should not personalise the union’s grievances. “We don’t have an issue with him as a person but our bone of contention is the manner in which he conducts his work,” he said.