De Lange and the short of top cop's removal
Experts tell us whether or not the police union is right to challenge Gauteng commissioner's 'early retirement'
The SA Police Union will legally challenge the removal of Gauteng provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange, which they claim violates the Constitution and was done through the abuse of the Police Act.
De Lange told Times Select last week that she had been asked to leave her post, without explanation, and had been given a golden handshake.
She had two years left on her contract. The golden handshake is believed to be an estimated R5-million.
On Friday, police management said De Lange had been offered three redeployment options, but had chosen early retirement under Section 35 of the Police Act.Police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said engagements with De Lange had been done according to human resource management policies.
“The options discussed with her are still open, despite the fact that, at the time, she volunteered for early retirement, and those processes have been finalised. Due to the fact that this is an employer/employee relationship matter, there will be no further public engagement on the subject,” Mathe said.
“Police management will announce De Lange’s successor soon.”
Union president Mpho Kwinika said police management needed to read and educate themselves as to what was contained in the act.
“Section 35 [of the act] deals with redundancy. It has nothing to do with early retirement. How can you make a provincial police commissioner’s post redundant? If police management knew the difference between early retirement and redundancy, they would never have allowed De Lange to take early retirement under Section 35.“The constitution states the appointment or removal of a provincial police commissioner must be done with the approval of a premier and provincial legislature. Removals can only be done if there is a loss of confidence and failures by the incumbents. The Gauteng community safety MEC must say if she has lost confidence in De Lange, which she has not said.”
Appointments or removals of provincial police commissioners are governed under Chapter 14 of the Constitution.
Kwinika said it was clear that police management had no idea what they are doing.
“Management lacks an understanding of the act and policing HR policies. De Lange should never have been allowed to leave like this or be given a golden handshake. It’s again an abuse of taxpayers’ money.”
He said they would legally challenge the processes around De Lange’s removal.
On the apparent return of former Gauteng provincial police commissioner Mzwandile Petros, Kwinika said they would demand answers as to whether he was coming out of retirement.Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange's letter to the national police commissioner“Surely there are other competent people in the police?”
On Friday, Gauteng community safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, after a press briefing with De Lange, told Times Select she had never approved the move “since I was never formally informed about De Lange’s departure”.
Gauteng provincial government spokesperson Thabo Masebe referred questions about whether the police followed the correct processes to remove De Lange, back to the SAPS.
He referred Times Select to police management for comment on who her replacement would be.
Policing specialist Professor Anthony Minnaar said police management was clueless when it came to HR.
“Policing HR is a highly specialised field, very different to commercial-company HR. There are people in the SAPS HR department who are unqualified, who don’t have the requisite HR or policing experience. That department requires people who have been police officers, who know the job stresses and have a good understanding of HR.”
However, Unisa criminologist Rudolph Zinn said the police were allowed to transfer members, as long as members were transferred to posts at the same salary level and position.“These can be done for operational reasons and are typically done when there is a high crime rate in a specific province, which police management feels is not being dealt with properly, such as the current spike in cash heists in Gauteng,” he said
Provincial police commissioners were on performance contracts. One must look at De Lange’s contract criteria to see whether she met them.
Zinn said the SAPS standing orders, which help regulate how police operate, include how and when members could be transferred, and deal with what could happen with members not wanting to transfer.
“Police management will probably deal with this by saying they have a right to transfer someone and if they refuse, they must go.”