Home Opinion and Features Looming police strike must be avert

Looming police strike must be avert

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“Where are these specialised units when station members are being killed left, right and centre without any ­promotion?”

Members of the South African Police Service. File Picture: Gary van Wyk/Independent Media

EVEN the most casual glance over the crime statistics is testament enough that South Africa cannot afford a police strike. A total of 2.09 million crimes were recorded in 2018, including murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, common assault and robbery.

In fact, the murder rate shot up by 7% to average 57 deaths a day, while the number of reported rapes rose to a shocking 40035.

This is the grim picture facing Police Minister Bheki Cele in his insurmountable fight against crime and it is against this background that any threat by the men and women in blue to withhold their labour must not only be treated as a priority, but must be addressed with the greatest urgency.

Our titles yesterday warned of looming SAPS industrial action over what officers term unfair processes in awarding promotions.

Messages between the disgruntled officers claim the police’s specialised units – including the unit commonly known as Amaberete – have allegedly promoted their constables to “warrant officers, while station members are overlooked”.

“Where are these specialised units when station members are being killed left, right and centre without any ­promotion?” reads one message.

Granted, the police department is classified as an essential service, which would make their strike action illegal. But given the critical role the police play in this crime-ridden country, it would be folly to argue about whether they would be breaking the law if they stopped work.

Debating who is wrong or right will not save lives that could be lost to callous criminals waiting for such an opportunity to strike.

We know it, police officers know it and the government also appreciates the gravity of that unimaginable catastrophe, should it come to pass. The solution is a no-brainer.

The present blame game between the police unions, government and the SAPS members will not avert the looming danger posed by this strike. The stakeholders must sit around a table and eliminate any possibility of lawlessness being the winner.

Let the voices of the officers be heard and meet them halfway at least.

It is often easy to bash our hardworking police force because of the few rotten apples that bring their name into disrepute, and neglect the sterling job most do at great risk to their own lives.