Allegations of racism have surfaced at metro police. Picture: Lee Rondganger.
Allegations of racism have surfaced at metro police. Picture: Lee Rondganger.

Indian Durban metro cops claim ’racism’ rife in force

By Charlene Somduth Time of article published Mar 19, 2021

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Durban - Seasoned Durban metro police officers who have given decades of service to the city feel let down.

The officers, all of Indian origin, claim they have been racially abused and undermined by a cabal of Africans at metro police. Yet, despite their plea that the City investigates the matter, they have been ignored.

Issues first surfaced about five years ago when Steve Middleton, then acting head of metro, appointed, on an acting basis, 34 police men and women to senior positions. They were made up of 17 Africans, 10 Indians, five coloureds and two whites.

According to one of the aggrieved policemen, a few days later, a WhatsApp message surfaced on working groups within metro police alleging that Indian South Africans were taking jobs meant for Africans. The officer, who asked not to be identified, said shortly thereafter tension arose between Indian and Africans officers.

The 10 officers of Indian origin all wrote to the City’s Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU) asking that the matter be investigated. They didn’t receive a response.

The aim of the CIIU is to promote respect for human rights and to cultivate a culture of human rights within eThekwini. It also investigates any conduct that is alleged to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice, including maladministration, corruption, abuse of power, undue delay and unfair discrimination.

In the last few years those affected have written on numerous occasions to their heads of department, the CIIU as well as the City but have been ignored.

In the meantime, the officers claim they have been subjected to ongoing discrimination based on their race. "We were called Coolies and told that we were drunks. The younger African officers began undermining our authority. We are very hurt by what is happening," said the officer.

In June last year, the 34 acting positions were made permanent. According to the officer, the African faction tried to block the appointment by writing to the acting municipal manager, Sipho Cele. As a result, the appointments were stopped even though the contracts had already been signed.

However, in September last year, following an investigation, the appointments were reinstated. "It was proved that our appointments were based on merit, experience and the fact that while we were in acting positions, we did a good job,” said the officer.

“ However, this group continues to fuel racial tensions between African and Indian officers by telling junior officers that we are taking their jobs. The City is aware of who they are and what they are doing but overlooks it."

The officer said he and his colleagues were also trying to get clarity on the City’s Employment Equity Plan. He claimed it had expired in 2018. "Are we not good enough for the City? We feel like the City has abandoned us. Some of us work 24 hours handling protests, investigating killings and the drug trade in Durban. We have been injured and leave our families to keep the city safe. Is this how we should be treated?"

At least three other policemen confirmed the allegations, independently of each other. While none of them were prepared to be quoted, one said what had happened was unfair because half of the 34 senior appointments went to Africans.

"Some of the African officers who applied for the positions were not considered because they filled out the application forms incorrectly, did not perform well in the interview, or lacked experience.

"Policing is a strategic and technical job. The lives of South Africans are in our hands. The policemen that are appointed to spearhead investigations into the protests or drug trade must have the knowledge and experience. You cannot send a junior officer who knows nothing about the history of the drug trade in Sydenham to investigate. It will not work."

Wiseman Mchunu, the deputy head of metro, referred POST to the City for comment.

A representative for the Independent Municipal Allied Trade Union, who declined to be named, confirmed the allegations were correct.


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