Times SELECT 04 October 2019

The trade union Solidarity is investigating 13 cases of “false” allegations of racism brought against white members of the SA Police Service.

The hate speech cases were brought to the union’s attention by the accused, who are also members of the union.

Renate Barnard, sector co-coordinator of Solidarity, said on Thursday the union intended to raise awareness around the “double standards” by the police.

“We are extremely frustrated with the double standards that apply when it comes to dealing with racism in the SAPS,” she said.

She said there had been a rise in complaints of this nature since 2017.

“People came to me and I thought maybe I need to look into it and it turns out this is a growing trend.

“It’s cases of employees within the SAPS wanting to use race as a trump card to have a colleague removed from the organisation. The reason is often that the colleague tried to hold them accountable for misconduct or tried to discipline them for failing to perform their duties.”

When there are allegations of white on black racism, no time is lost to take action without any further investigation.

Barnard said the system was designed in a way that any person accused of racism is almost immediately treated with “distrust, rejection and contempt”.

“By dealing with such cases in this manner, the police are simply encouraging more divisive racist behaviour.”

Barnard encouraged people to come forward with similar cases.

“The first step is to grasp the magnitude of the problem. The rate at which we see the complaints coming in is already alarming. One can therefore really be worried about the number of similar cases that just never reach us,” she added.

The report will be submitted to the SA Human Rights Commission and the police.

Among these cases is that of Lt-Col Annemarie Oosthuizen, former HR commander at Klerksdorp, who was allegedly accused of using the k-word.

This came after she initiated disciplinary steps for misconduct against two junior members under her command when they failed to report for duty. 

According to the report, these members alleged that Oosthuizen was racist towards them. She was then subjected to an internal hearing, taken to the Equality Court and found not guilty in all cases.

However, “no action was taken against the members who falsely accused her”, Barnard said.

Brig Reinette Pieterse, a former station commander, was relieved of her position and transferred to another site.

She was berated as racist, with members demanding that she be sent to the dog unit because she had no human relations. 

Barnard said this occurred even though the complainants refused to confirm their allegations under oath and the case was withdrawn.

Jayson Kent, at law firm ENSafrica law, which spcialises in BEE law, said that incidences of racism, in the workplace and elsewhere, were “still more common than we may like to admit”.

“With that in mind, it is unfortunate when someone accused of wrongdoing reverts to making false allegations of racism against their accuser. This places the employer in an unenviable position,” said Kent.

He said that allegations of racism must be taken seriously and investigated.

“Where there is merit to an allegation of racism, action must be taken against the guilty party. However, the original allegations of wrongdoing should still be tested by way of a fair and lawful disciplinary process, and the door should not be left open to employees to escape being held accountable for their own wrongdoing simply by accusing their accuser of racism.

“Not only would this lead to employees avoiding accountability, but it serves to delegitimise the claims of employees who truly are subjected to racist treatment,” he said.

Police did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

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