Durban 13-07-2016 Police Vihacle parked in Marshall Grove outside the lawyers house. Picture by: Sibonelo Ngcobo

Durban - While political tension and service delivery protests are on the rise, Durban’s Public Order Policing (Pop) Unit cannot do its job because they are acting as security guards and claim the unit lacks strong leadership.

Last week two vehicles were set alight at the newly-built Inanda/Umgeni interchange near Durban, but the unit was not deployed.

Now fed-up members of the unit have decided to embark on a go-slow from on Monday.

Members sent a letter of grievance to their union, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) on Wednesday.

In it they claimed they were being placed in static positions and were forced to work as security guards which is not part of their duties.

Instead, their role is to ensure order is maintained during demonstrations and protests, and, second, in the combating and prevention of intelligence driven crime operations.

One of the properties the unit has been assigned to guard belongs to advocate Moipone Noko, the KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions.

They do so 24 hours a day, even when she is not at home.

It is believed she is under police protection for her involvement in the Cato Manor “death squad” case.

The unit has been assigned to guard a police communications facility at Glebelands Hostel.

Members of the unit said this was a function that should be assigned to a local police station.

The members are also unhappy about having to act as bodyguards for the Minister of Police, Nkosinathi Nhleko, when, twice a year, he visits the Shembe Nhlangakazi holy mountain near Durban.

Musa Zondi, spokesman for the minister, said he could not respond to the allegations because it was an operational matter.

Noko said: “We have many police officers in KZN and only two are monitoring my house at a time. What difference will two police officers make?”It was not my decision to have them stationed there. It was a decision taken for safety reasons after several assessments were done. The safety reasons cannot be disclosed. These people will always find silly excuses not to do their jobs”, she said.

A member of the unit said: “Last week on Saturday we were unable to respond to the protest in Kennedy Road due to being at static points.

Two vehicles were burnt but we were only briefed after the event.

“We should have been the unit responding to public violence. Instead, we are posted in these static points and we are doing absolutely nothing. Our function is public order yet we are made to sit in a vehicle for 12 hours a day doing nothing.

“We are not security guards. If something happens, we have only two members at a static point and we may be forced to use live ammo.

“There is poor leadership on the side of our leaders. If action is not taken we will leave our base.”

Another member of the unit said public order police worked in groups of eight.

“Members are being posted in twos, which is not permitted. It seems as though this issue will only be addressed when a Marikana-type incident takes place in Durban. Manpower is being wasted. We do not go through such intense training to sit the entire day and perform the duties of a security guard.”

The member also claimed that colleagues were frustrated and, as a result, were booking off sick or taking leave to prevent being deployed as guards.

Popcru KZN secretary Ntabeleng Molefe said the union was soliciting information from its members in all units in order to engage the management of the SAPS.

Molefe could not confirm if the grievance had been received as Popcru members had been out of the province since Wednesday attending a conference. But the members said despite this, they would still embark on a go-slow.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said all members of the SAPS were deployed according to a threat analysis. “We find it strange that members of the SAPS, who are paid a salary to perform a certain function, would complain. We have not received notice that the public order police will embark on a go-slow.

“There are procedures in the SAPS that aggrieved members can embark on to engage with management.

“The SAPS is regarded as an essential service and will not entertain members who are on a go-slow.”

He said members found not doing their jobs would be dealt with decisively even if it meant that they were dismissed from the SAPS. [email protected]

Sunday Tribune