Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Covid-linked police deaths concern union

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Jan 5, 2021

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Cape Town - The SA Policing Union (Sapu) has expressed grave concern over the alarmingly high rate of police officer deaths and infections due to Covid-19.

According to the union, more than 300 officers were lost by the end of December, with more than 21 000 cumulative cases and more than 900 active cases.

This as messages of condolences continue to pour in for Bellville police station's Captain James van Rooyen, who died on Saturday, and Somerset police station's Warrant Officer Deon Kruger, who died on Sunday. Both reportedly succumbed to Covid-19.

Van Rooyen's colleagues, the Bellville Community Police Forum (CPF) and community members held a small memorial service outside the station on Sunday.

His framed picture, alongside candles and flowers, were placed both outside and inside the station.

The CPF's Gerda Gerber said: “Captain Van Rooyen was a humble and quiet person who was always available to assist, never mind if his shift was over. He was loved by many for that. It's very hard to process.”

Kruger's colleagues described him as a gentle giant and an exemplary officer.

Sapu's acting deputy general secretary, Peter Ntsime, said they were not impressed with the attention given to police officers, who were often not regarded as part of the frontline workforce in the fight against Covid-19.

“Sapu calls upon the public to act responsibly as adults and adhere to the regulations. It won't be necessary to police adults if they adhere to the regulations.

“As a response union, we are taking part fully in the Covid-19 steering committee where issues of common interest are dealt with.

“We will continue to engage other stakeholders. We have called for more uniforms for our members, we advise our members to always sanitise their hands and fumigate the vehicles after every arrest, as this will also help flatten the curve,” said Ntsime.

He said they had engaged management on the issue of quarantine sites for police officers as hospitals were overwhelmed.

Western Cape police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said that, just as frontline workers in other sectors, the police force in the province had been hard hit by the second wave.

“Several police stations, which are service points, have not been spared either, the latest being stations such as Milnerton, Mfuleni, Melkbosstrand, Knysna, Porterville, Goodwood, Strand and Stilbaai, to mention a few.

“Provincial and national units as well as administrative services have been affected.

“Environments such as the Western Cape Flying Squad and the detective service have seen employees testing positive for Covid-19.

“Sadly, we also have lost some of our own to the virus,” said Potelwa.

She said contingency plans immediately kicked in, with protocols including decontamination carried out at affected facilities.

“As part of the SAPS contingency plan, alternative buildings were identified at the start of the lockdown in March 2020 to be utilised in the event of the temporary closure of a service point due to an infection.

“On a preventative level, there is constant communication with employees on what is expected of them in order to contain the spread of the virus, on and off duty,” Potelwa said.

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Cape Times

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