PORT ELIZABETH - An award-winning detective team from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape has for more than a year worked for the State for free - despite a bargaining council agreement that SAPS should pay them out the R400,000 they are owed in overtime.
Over weekends, during the night and the early hours of the morning, when they are called out to dangerous scenes, the 18 seasoned police members say they are thinking only about helping those who fall victim to crime and not the huge overtime balance due to them.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has defaulted by not paying the police officers overtime for the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 financial years.
This, despite a Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council (SSSBC) agreement stating that the members must be paid on or before June 30 this year.
The award-winning detective team, together with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Port Elizabeth, has a star track record in securing convictions and heavy sentences for criminals in recent years.
Earlier this year, Deswin Kleinbooi, 22, and Eston Afrikaner, 19, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2016 murder of community policing forum founder Naeem Desai.
Desai, from Jadeeds Bakery, was delivering bread in Helenvale when he was gunned down and left for dead in his truck in Helenvale. In another successful conviction, Fat Cats gang members Dewi Walton, 27, and Trenton Ambraal, 33, were in July last year convicted of the murder and attempted murder of rival gang members.
In September 2016, Walton and Ambraal went out armed during broad daylight on a mission to take out Rushay Cross and Pregathon Booth.
Within two hours after the shooting the men were tracked down and arrested at a drug den in Schauderville, police said at the time.
Justice was also served when Marcus Malgas, 24, and Gregory Van Staden, 30, were sentenced to life behind bars for the murder of two-year-old Caydene Ruiters. The toddler was shot and killed after shots were recklessly fired towards a group of people during a gang-related shooting in December 2015.
The child was in front of a house in Barcelona with her mother and sister when a stray bullet hit her in the back.
These are but some of the cases that saw the police investigating team and prosecutors pour hours into successfully solving and prosecuting cases.
The Provincial Gang Investigation Unit, often lauded for the work they do in Port Elizabeth's gang plagued northern areas, was formed around five years ago and last year won detective team of the year at the National Excellence Awards Ceremony held at Sun City, near Rustenburg in the North West.
“Yes, the overtime is due to them but we love what we do. They are experienced members who go over and above. What really means the most is that we are making a difference in someone's life. That's the nature of a detective's job. We are not people who are motivated by money," said one police member.
But, after months of deliberations they decided to register a case of grievance. After management could not address the issue the police members turned to the South African Policing Union (SAPU), and the matter went to the SSSBC and was settled by agreement.
Papers seen by the African News Agency (ANA) show that the agreement states that the police members were to be paid their overtime money no later than June 30. However, almost a month later and not one police officer has been paid their overtime.
Cluster Chairperson of the Mount Road Community Policing Forum, Eddie Alexander said that the situation was unfair, especially for members who go beyond the call of duty.
Alexander who oversees neighbourhood watch groups across seven police station precincts in Port Elizabeth said that other ongoing issues within SAPS were the lack of vehicles and manpower.
Alexander, who has done community crime prevention work for the past 15 years and works closely with the SAPS, said that he supported the members because he knows how much work they do, in order to deliver the successes.
"If police are not handled correctly we cannot allow that. They work hard to put dangerous criminal behind bars, often going beyond duty and leaving their families. It is not fair that they are not getting paid and we are supporting them. If it was not for them we would not have the successes in putting these criminals behind bars," Alexander said.
He believes trained detectives needed to be valued for the work they do. He said training was an ongoing issue because while some cops were experienced, other less experienced police officers jeopardised criminal cases because of their inability to take down the correct information at crime scenes.
Provincial police communications were contacted for comment last week and asked for time to respond. On Thursday, police spokesperson Captain Mali Govender said it was an internal matter receiving attention at the highest level. Govender said that payment to the members was a process.
African News Agency (ANA)