File photo.

Durban policeman Dean van Zyl, who was recently arrested in a sting operation when he allegedly tried to sell his police radio to a tow-truck driver, is back on duty.

Van Zyl, 26, who at the time was out on bail for the alleged theft of petrol and alleged armed robbery, was rearrested when he allegedly tried to sell his police radio in Pinetown for R2 000 this month.

A policeman, who would not be named, told the Sunday Tribune that Van Zyl was on active duty.

“He is at work in uniform. How can a police officer who has been charged with so many crimes be allowed to come back to work? What message are we sending to the public by allowing this? We can’t even police our own,” he said.

Another officer, who also requested anonymity, confirmed that Van Zyl was on duty after his third arrest in three weeks. “I was at the station when he was arrested for allegedly stealing petrol,” he said. “It is disgusting to see a policeman in the cells, we are meant to uphold the law.”

Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane provided a scant explanation as to why Van Zyl had not been removed from duty.

“Suspension of a serving member of the SAPS entails strict adherence to procedure and relevant legislation by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner. This is a normal process and the members of the public are assured that the Provincial Commissioner will take an appropriate decision regarding suspension of the member,” he said.

“The member is entitled to the use of police equipment including the state-issue firearm during the performance of his official police duties,” Zwane added.

Repeated attempts to contact Van Zyl proved unsuccessful.

The DA’s police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler-Barnard said that it was unconscionable for police management to allow a member facing criminal charges to stay on active duty.

“The reality is that criminality isn’t taken seriously… Imagine a traumatised member of the public could be giving a statement in their home to a cop who has committed a crime but who the SAPS refuses to suspend. The SAPS is still treating the IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) with the same contempt it treated the Independent Complaints Directorate, despite the fact that we strengthened the law considerably,” she added.

Kohler-Barnard said that she would address the issue and tackle police top brass who had failed to suspend Van Zyl.

“It is time station and provincial heads were held to account for their actions, which I rank on a par with the police criminals themselves. I will find out who is responsible for this particular can of worms, open it, and shame their bosses into doing the right thing,” she said.

“The time has come to revisit the psychometric testing of new recruits. The increase in police criminality proves without a doubt that the system is failing or that we are today reaping the rewards of the shortcuts that disgraced former national police commissioner Bheki Cele instituted,” Kohler-Barnard added.

IPID spokesman Moses Dlamini said that the matter was one for police management to deal with.

Two weeks ago, The Mercury reported that the sting operation was orchestrated by KwaDukuza Cluster Commander Brigadier Derrick Hastibeer, who had received a tip-off about the officer’s attempt to sell the police radio.

Waiting nearby, police officers involved in the sting watched Van Zyl and arrested him. He appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on charges of corruption and theft, and was granted R2 000 bail.

His next court appearance is set down for January 29.

At the time, police hailed the arrest as a demonstration of their “commitment to rooting out corruption” and dealing effectively with criminals in the SAPS.

A day before his latest arrest, Van Zyl appeared in the same court on charges of armed robbery after an altercation with a panel beater who had repaired his car.

Two weeks before this, Van Zyl was arrested for stealing petrol from a service station. It was alleged that he had filled his tank and subsequently refused to pay.

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Sunday Tribune