Pretoria - A driving course incorporated into the SA Police Service training will extend the lifespan and working condition of vehicles, Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu said on Thursday.
“We realised that the strict requirement (of potential police officers to have driver's licences) was discriminating against our young people, especially those who come from rural areas,” she said at the SAPS training academy in Pretoria.
Due to this requirement, many prospective police officers ended up “buying” the licences and mishandling state vehicles.
“Because of the fact that the requirement was a driving licence, they went and bought the licence to get access into the police. When they are supposed to drive, they would drive from here (Pretoria) to Kroonstad in first gear.
“This issue of saying the police don't have driving licences, we made it very difficult for them. They didn't have any options unless they went and bought them so that they could get accepted as police members,” she said.
The SAPS had since fully waived the possession of a driving licence requirement for recruits from 2009.
On Thursday, Sotyu officiated at an event where the SAPS and the Safety and Security Education and Training Authority (Sasseta) entered an agreement to provide training on motor vehicle driving skills to 1000 officers during the 2014/15 financial year.
“This launch has nothing to do with the senseless and illogical murmuring that was done last year by a certain group of people who were maliciously alleging that thousands of police officers were driving without licences or had no driving licences at all.
“That is not true. The only anomaly is that we had some officers whose licences had expired. Of course those statistics of expired licences did have a negative impact on personnel and the image of the police as a whole,” she said.
Last year Gauteng community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko told the Gauteng legislature that 11 611 SAPS operational members in the province did not have driver's licences, compared to 18 872 who did.
Mazibuko said 60 percent of those without licences were functional members working outside police stations as crew on response and sector vehicles, client service centres, as guards at cells and courts, at roadblocks and as domestic violence co-ordinators.
At the time Democratic Alliance Gauteng provincial leader John Moodey, who asked the question in the legislature, said it was “an explicit requirement for employment under the SAPS Act” to have a valid driving licence.
Police officers will be taken for driving lessons after the May 7 elections, under the Sasseta agreement.
Two testing centres, in Gauteng and the Western Cape, were established internally to assist officers to get driving licences.
Sotyu said by hiring recruits without a driver's licence, government was not breaking any law.
“What we have done actually is to uphold our most supreme law of this country. The Bill of Rights states that national legislation must be enacted to prohibit unlawful discrimination,” she said.
“I think those of our children from rural communities did not get the opportunity to get drivers' licences. We are busy reviewing the white paper on safety and security so that we can amend the SA Police Service Act.”