/ 15 March 2008

‘Ugly’ racial tension among Mpumalanga police

Racial tension within Mpumalanga police stations has reached ”ugly” proportions, says the province’s safety and security minister, Fish Mahlalela.

”The tension between black and white officers at police stations is ugly and dents … the fight against crime,” he told a meeting on Thursday.

Mahlalela was speaking at a Joint Management Forum meeting attended by his department and South African Police Service management, his office said in a statement on Friday.

He pointed out incidents of racism where new police vehicles were used by white officers and only run-down vehicles were allocated to black officers, while some stations used toilet facilities according to race.

During a visit by the National Council of Provinces, he was told that at a certain police station some community members who had visited the station to make a complaint to the station commissioner went away without registering the complaint after learning that the commissioner was black.

”This is not welcomed in a democratic society, and we call upon all officers who are prepared to serve the people to work together in ensuring that the beneficiaries of service delivery are at all times served without any fear of being discriminated [against]”, he said.

Mahlalela said the tension influences community members, particularly those supporting the white officers, to revolt against black officers.

Racism, he said, is not only widespread within the police service, but also rife in the entire criminal justice system — where cases implicating certain farmers have allegedly not been processed in some of the province’s courts.

He called on station commissioners to make sure that all officers and citizens are treated equally, in order to avoid tension and encourage a ”rainbow” police force in the province. — Sapa