The South African Police Service (SAPS) found the Head of Basic Police Development, Major-General Sandra Malebe-Thema, guilty of racism after sustained pressure from Solidarity.
According to Anton van der Bijl, Head of Legal Services at Solidarity, Malebe-Thema made racist and humiliating remarks towards various training personnel during an event at the SAPS Training Academy in Oudtshoorn in 2016. Van der Bijl said the General had stated that there were too many white faces occupying positions in training and that the so-called discrimination against black students would be stopped. “During the same event she also made inappropriate comments about a selected group of personnel’s clothing and weight,” Van der Bijl confirmed.
The trade union acted immediately by submitting a formal complaint to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in Cape Town, in November 2016. Solidarity sustained the pressure by turning to the Labour Court in May 2017, forcing the SAPS to launch an internal investigation against Malebe-Thema.
Van der Bijl said the sanction found that Malebe-Thema did not show any remorse for her behaviour and continued to argue throughout the investigation that she did not do anything wrong. Furthermore, it was found that the General’s selective remarks caused emotional harm to the staff members involved, which had a negative impact on their work and personal lives. In view of this, it was found that Major-General Malebe-Thema should be dismissed with immediate effect.
According to Van der Bijl, this is one of the rare occasions where justice triumphed in a situation where a black person was blatantly racist towards white people. “We are delighted with the outcome, since Solidarity spent a lot of time and effort to ensure that the SAPS fulfils its obligation to act on these matters. I believe this will be a lesson for South Africa that racism is not colour blind,” he concluded.
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