By Sameer Naik and Shaun Smillie
They were meant to be a game changer in the fight against crime on the streets of Johannesburg, a new crop of officers who would double the size of the metro police force.
But a year after they had their Passing Out Parade the 1085 cadets are the victims of alleged political interference over claims they are inadequately trained.
The officers were recruited in April 2018 and after completing a two year training programme were recalled after graduating from training college.
According to the spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar the Road Traffic Management Corporation had found that their training was not adequate, and they were sent back to the academy for more training.
But for many of the cadets – whose families watched them proudly in the brown and blue of the Metro police during their Passing Out parade – the recall to the academy has been a psychological blow.
“Like any young people who have graduated they were ready to hit their new job. Then a political leader goes to the public without consulting them and says they are useless,” said Michael Sun, the former MMC for public safety.
“Many feel now that it is not worth their while, and they say they feel worthless.”
Political parties are blaming each other. Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moyo, the spokesperson for Johannesburg executive mayor Geoff Makhubo said the problem lay with the former DA mayor Herman Mashaba.
“They were not ready to leave but a political decision was made to pass them out,” he said.“ He was motivated to leave a legacy and he wanted to go out with a bang.”
Mashaba, however, said that the training of the new cadets had nothing to do with him.
“This was a political decision and at the end of the day who suffers are the residents. Because they are paying for a service they are not getting. And this was a decision made to embarrass me,” said the former mayor.
Sun pointed out that there were irregularities in how the cadets were forced to undergo retraining. “It is procedurally wrong and there is a huge legal concern about the steps taken. We are simply not seeing the documentation that should be there,” he explained.
He added that individual cadets should have been given documentation outlining where they had fallen short with their training, rather than a blanket fail.
“As I like to explain it, it is like a matric class. If one of the class fails maths, it doesn’t mean that the whole class fails. This is what has happened here,” Sun said.
The South African Police Union’s general secretary Oscar Skommere told The Saturday Star that they had received feedback that the cadets had been unable to properly utlise their firearms.
“There was a general complaint with regard to members being unable to utilise firearms,” said Skommere. “That means that there is an issue of competence at the training college.
When you graduate from the training college you must know properly how to apply the law, how to arrest, how to utilise firearms, how to drive properly, and take statements and write dockets.
“If the cadets aren’t being taught properly then there needs to be a serious re look at the training.” “As Sapu, we would like to appeal to JMPD to ensure that training programs are properly implemented and monitored. Because this poses a risk to the community and members themselves if training is not properly defined and executed.”
Sun said that the whole affair had cost the residents of Joburg money as the cadets were forced into lock down because of the Covid pandemic and could not attend training.
“If they had been deployed we would have seen a major improvement in terms of the traffic management. They would have dealt with by law enforcement and they could have been sent to crime hotspots where you have smash and grabs and hijackings. And they would have been led by more experienced officers,” he said.
However Moyo countered: “They are not making Johannesburg safer, as there is no evidence that they are proficient at anything.The City has to pay for this retraining and we have nothing political to gain.”
According to sources there is an investigation into the whole matter. However the potential good news for the citizens of Johannesburg is that if all goes well the city could at the end of the year have the largest metro police force in the country ready to hit the streets and fight crime.