Two members of the South African Police Service have been found guilty of several criminal charges related to false claims of racism after their former commander, Lieutenant Colonel Annemarie Oosthuizen, laid criminal charges against them. Solidarity, representing Oosthuizen, welcomes the decision of the North-West Regional Court which sat in Stilfontein, finding the two members guilty of assault, defeating the ends of justice, perjury and crimen injuria.
Back in 2017 Oosthuizen instituted disciplinary steps against two junior members under her command who had committed a misconduct by not reporting for duty without permission or having applied for leave. In their response to the disciplinary steps, the two warrant officers opened a case of crimen injuria against Oosthuizen contending that she had used the k-word to refer to them. A former intern, Ms Sechele who came forward to testify against them, was also intimidated, but notwithstanding her personal safety and her own career security, she persevered to testify, refuting the false claims of racism made by the two warrant-officers.
Then, on the insistence of POPCRU Oosthuizen was subjected to an internal investigation and hearing, and this despite Sechele’s testimony. Solidarity represented Oosthuizen all along and in the internal hearing she was found not guilty of all charges of misconduct. In the hearing it was also found that the warrant-officers and their witness had blatantly lied under oath. Notwithstanding the finding, the SAPS has not instituted any departmental action against the two warrant-officers for their unlawful action to date. In this regard, Solidarity has referred a labour dispute under the Employment Equity Act to the Labour Court in Johannesburg on behalf of Oosthuizen.
“The ruling in the criminal case is not only a victory for Lieutenant Colonel Oosthuizen and Solidarity, but for every person in the public sector who is accused of or incriminated on false charges of racism,” Renate Barnard, a sector coordinator at Solidarity, said. “It sends a clear message to the employer, in this case the public service, that racism towards white employees is a reality and that it should be viewed in the same serious light as racism towards black people is viewed.”
While Solidarity welcomes any campaign against racism, it is of the opinion that such campaign cannot address racism successfully if it only singles out one race. The ANC, being the ruling party that wants to fight racism at this juncture, has to bear in mind that in this particular instance and in many others it has been the employer that has itself failed to act against all forms of racism.
It is shocking that police officers in the Police Service have made themselves complicit of such actions. It is even more shocking that the employer has failed to act. Failure by the employer to act against misconduct, and especially racism, calls into question its competence and it begs the question whether it has not been deliberate,” Barnard contends.
Sentencing in the criminal case that lasted more than three years is expected to take place on 19 June. “We are pleased by the ruling and that justice finally prevailed. We are also grateful to Ms Sechele who took a stand for truth and justice. This case sets a clear precedent in our fight against discrimination and especially racism and double standards in the SAPS,” Barnard concluded.