Confusion over call for ex-cops to join fight against crime

Date: 22 Nov 2006
Dozens of former police officers responding to a call by Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula last month to rejoin the police force have been turned away. After an urgent meeting on October 4 between six government departments, Business Against Crime and Business Leadership South Africa, Nqakula said retired police officers and former members of the judiciary would be recalled to help fight crime. The meeting came after high-level discussions between President Thabo Mbeki and business leaders in August in which business leaders expressed concern over attacks on businesses and poor strategies used in fighting crime. Nqakula agreed with Business Leadership South Africa's Michael Spicer that the recall of former police officers from the private sector was a way to boost the capacity of the South African Police Service. "It is vital that we … attract these people back if we want to stop crime," he said then, adding that bringing back former police officers and other crime fighters would inject a wealth of experience into the Safety and Security Department. But a letter signed by SAPS personnel services Divisional Commissioner Martha Stander and dated November 3 emphasises that a 2002 policy blocking the re-enlistment of police officers had not changed. In the letter, circulated to all divisional commissioners, provincial commissioners, department and section heads at SAPS head office, commanders at SAPS colleges and training centres, and all deputy national commissioners, Stander said the number of inquiries from former police officers wanting to re-enlist "is so vast" that the SAPS had had to clarify its position. Over the past two days, Independent Newspapers has received copies of 46 rejection letters from the SAPS to former police officers. "Following the announcement in the media that former police officers will be re-enlisted to assist with the combating of crime, a number of inquiries and applications has been received by head office for consideration," Stander said in the circular. The position of the SAPS on the re-enlistment of former police officers had not changed since April 8 2002, Stander explained. Former inspector Flippie du Toit said the door was being shut in his face. "It is very confusing when the minister of safety and security says 'come back' but the SAPS tell us not to bother them." Former Anti-Hijacking Unit detective Duppie du Plessis, who has 17 years' experience as a detective, said the messages being sent out were confusing. Asked for comment, Safety and Security Department spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said: "It is part of an anti-crime programme with big business and is still going ahead. "As far as I know, the minister (Nqakula) has not cancelled the call-up," he said. By Graeme Hosken The Star 22/11/06