OPINION

Private security industry a law unto itself – POPCRU

Union says inhumane evictions done by Red Ants one example

POPCRU Post-NEC statement 

9 June 2019

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) held its normal National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting from Friday, 7 June to Sunday, 9 June 2019 at its headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.

The meeting focused on contemporary issues affecting our members within the criminal justice sector and broader working class issues in general. The meeting reflected and resolved as follows;

National General Elections

The NEC deliberated at length the outcomes of the recent national general elections where our structures participated fully towards ensuring an ANC victory for defending, deepening and advancing the national democratic revolution.

It was, however, noted with concern the declining figures of voter turnout which, among other reflected that most youth had lost interest, despite the themed IEC campaign that targeted young voters below the ages of 30 who constituted six million eligible voters.

This withdrawal from taking such important decisions such as voting should not be taken lightly, as it is linked to the fact that most young people are faced with employment challenges and other socio-economic factors that are borne out of the conditions our country finds itself.

This is a looming threat towards the upcoming 2021 Local Government Elections, and unless practical action is taken in ensuring youth unemployment rates and their general wellbeing is addressed, it could spell disaster for the ruling party, especially within the cities.

We urge alliance components not to disband the utilised elections structures, but to continue with the work of not only interacting with communities, but in ensuring their grievances are speedily addressed

It is up to all alliance components to avoid infightings within public platforms and demonstrate restraint and unity.

Role of the IEC

The NEC commends the good work done by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in particular, and the different observer missions in ensuring that there were free and fair elections when South Africans expressed their preferences. It played a key role pre-elections, and despite the several insinuations of biasness by other participating parties, the IEC has one more preserved its integrity and trust among the populace.

Appointment of the 6th Cabinet

The NEC welcomes the welcomes the new cabinet that forms the sixth administration as led by President Ramaphosa. We congratulate all appointed Ministers, particularly those within the criminal justice sector and are hopeful that the many outstanding challenges faced therein will be their immediate priorities.

The transformation of the criminal justice sector is long overdue and needs a decisive and committed government that will ensure its credibility is brought back.

The NEC looks forward to meeting and engaging these ministries within the criminal justice sector to resolve some of the pertinent challenges faced therein.

The Private Security Industry

We have noted with concern the manner in which the private security industry conducts itself. The NEC is concerned that this industry has for far too long become a law unto itself without any precautionary measures in its compliance with the law.

The recent manner in which the inhumane evictions, though legal or not, have been conducted by the Red Ants is one such behaviour which is common among most of these private security industries.

The prevalence of firearms and a lack of proper regulation within the industry are even more worrying when considering the concurrent evidence of criminality. There are many outstanding cases which were reported against members of the industry over the years, but not much has been done.

Another concern is the possible diversion of firearms from the industry to criminal entities. Because of capacity constraints, firearm licenses are not always cancelled when private security companies de-register, and in some cases companies intentionally register and then deregister to obtain licensed firearms.

Policing is a constitutional imperative which has to be delivered by the state. However, we have noted that the size of the private security industry is three times bigger than the size of the police and army combined, with heavy ammunition that is not always accounted for.

Reinstatement of POPCRU members in KZN

The NEC welcomes the reinstatement of eight members from Qalakabusha Correctional Centre in eMpangeni who had been dismissed in 2015 on unfounded allegations of work stoppage.

We further note the article contained in the Mail and Guardian of 7- 13 June 2019, which paints a picture that these members were dismissed for refusing to feed inmates. We deny this and challenge those that provided the information to the M&G to provide such evidence of their allegations, and reveal their identities.

On early retirement and the reduction of budget for the payment of performance bonuses

The NEC, like all COSATU affiliates, rejects the early retirement packages offered by government to our members under the disguise that they are an employer-initiated whilst in fact members have to initiate the process. It is unclear if members will not be negatively affected, given that there is no clear plan on the part of the state on how the process is going to be administered, and the guarantee that members will not be negatively affected.

There is also no plan on where the 30 000 members will come from, how service delivery will not be affected and there are no answers on a host of other pertinent issues relating to this process. Therefore, members are advised to carefully consider their options before falling into the trap that they might later regret.

The NEC also welcomes the signing into law of the ‘clean break’ principle, which brings to an end the situation whereby employees would owe the GEPF money and interest from the members’ money after the GEPF shall have paid the spouses’ portion upon divorce.

On the reduction of the budget for the payment of performance bonuses, the POPCRU is part of the dispute declared by labour in the Public Service Coordination Bargaining Council (PSCBC) in defending this hard-earned benefit of workers, and shall do all in its might to ensure this and other benefits are protected.

Non-implementation of Collective Agreements

POPCRU calls on all trade unions, in particular our trade federation COSATU, to join the fight against the non-implementation of collective agreements in the PSCBC and sector bargaining councils which has had negative effects on benefits for members.

As an example, the introduction and implementation of the Government Employees Housing Scheme as contained in PSCBC resolution 7 of 2015 and the review of the remuneration policy of the state, including the bursary scheme for public servants and their dependants have all not being implemented as agreed.

Shortage of staff and constant stabbings within DCS

The NEC has noted with concern the constant attacks, raping and stabbing of members within our correctional facilities.

These are but remnants of the failures of the management to have the department performing its core mandate, which is to rehabilitate inmates.

It is our held view that rehabilitation cannot take place under the current conditions where overcrowding and understaffing are rife.

Further, the non-implementation of OSD agreements, in particular the OSD for educators and correctional officials is of grave concern. There is no alignment of pay progression and the adjustment of salaries for educators who obtained higher qualifications in line with ELRC resolution 4 of 2009 and PSCBC resolutions.

The non-payment of overtime and the improper payment for work performed on Sundays are some of the issues that lead to the already low morale of the staff complement.

We call on all members to strictly comply with policies and procedures of the department of correctional services. This includes not to unlock cells, not to escort offenders to courts or hospitals when there is insufficient manpower to do so. We wish to remind them that their safety is a priority.

Nationalisation of Traffic

The NEC calls on the newly appointed Minister of Transport to speed up the process of the nationalisation of traffic and the insourcing of all state functions which are lying in agencies under the department of transport.

Towards the 9th POPCRU National Congress

The NEC received reports about the union’s readiness towards its 9th National Congress which will be taking place from the 5- 9 November 2019, and will be hosted concurrently with its 30th anniversary celebrations.

The NEC satisfied itself with the work that is being done so far in relation to these preparations, and will be introducing its discussion documents to the public for engagement in due course.

Issued by Richard Mamabolo, Media and Communications Officer, POPCRU, 9 June 2019