The politicisation of the police can never be tolerated

Dan Plato MPP

Western Cape Minister of Community Safety

In a letter to a major newspaper on the weekend by a senior ranking police officer, Major General Jeremy Vearey,  he emphatically states that he is a member of the ANC, and which appears to be in conflict with the provisions of the SAPS Act designed to ensure impartiality by police officers. I have therefore written to the Provincial Police Commissioner General Arno Lamoer requesting his intervention and suspension of General Vearey pending a full investigation.

While any member of our society, regardless of their occupation, is free to belong to whichever political movement they choose, the SAPS Act explicitly states, under Section 46, that:

“46. (1) No member shall-

(a) publicly display or express support for or associate himself or herself with a political party, organization, movement or body;

(b) hold any post or office in a political party, organization, movement or body;

(c) wear any insignia or identification mark in respect of any political party, organisation, movement or body; or

(d) in any other manner further or prejudice party-political interests.”

General Vearey stated – all in uppercase “I AM A PROUD MEMBER OF THE ANC; I ATTEND ITS MEETINGS OR EVENTS WHEN TIME PERMITS; and I AM PROUD OF HAVING BEEN PART OF THE HISTORY OF AN ORGANISATION THAT LED THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE IN THIS COUNTRY”, – in a letter titled ‘Politicking not right label to use in effort to accuse’ and published in the Weekend Argus, 6 April 2014.

Given the dire need for strong political neutrality to be shown by all members of SAPS in the carrying out of their duties to the communities they serve, it simply cannot be tolerated that a senior police officer so publicly displays and expresses support for and associates himself with one political party. This cannot be ignored and condoned given the example this would make for all other members of the police service to act in a similar manner if not sanctioned. It would also have implications for the community that Maj-Gen Vearey has been mandated to serve – many of whom may not share his political views – and who can accordingly now assume a bias from him in relation to his treatment of lawful political actions that may be taken by political parties other than the ANC.

I have requested that General Lamoer immediately investigate and take the necessary disciplinary action against Maj-Gen Vearey as well as any officer found contravening the provisions of the Act. One of the key values of the South African Police Service is protect everyone’s rights and to be impartial, respectful, and accountable to the community – this cannot happen when police officers become political champions.

General Vearey is the head of Operation Combat, which is the unit tasked with dealing with the gang violence that has so long plagued this province. The unit requires all levels of government, Metro Police, SAPS and communities, no matter their political affiliation to work together – if this unit is seen to be politically aligned, the community will lose faith in the police’s ability to effectively combat the gangs.

Given that national elections are less than a month away, serious consideration should be given to the suspension of Maj-Gen Vearey during the period of investigation. This should be done to ensure that no further undermining of the trust in SAPS occurs as a result of transgressions perpetuated by him.