The South African Police Service (SAPS) has made major inroads in its drive to promote thousands of officers, Police Minister Bheki Cele has announced.
The announcement came amid threats of industrial action in the SAPS over skewed promotions.
Addressing media at the Gauteng SAPS provincial headquarters, Cele said the issue of promotions -- which is backlogged by 69 219 personnel since the 2011/12 financial year -- is being addressed.
During the briefing, union representatives said they would assure the public that the planned strike would not go ahead on Monday. The reps reiterated that officers are aware that they are not allowed to strike, as they offer an essential service.
Cele said it is important to put the "sensitive subject" of promotions into proper context and understanding.
During his Budget Vote speech in May last year, Cele presented to the National Assembly a reference point to the policy direction on SAPS promotions. During the address, there were backlogs in the grade progressions of employees between levels 5 and 7.
"Moving from this particular understanding, we can all agree that the ultimate intended purpose of addressing the long overdue promotions of eight years is aimed at improving the morale and well-being of our members, with the ultimate goal of impacting effectively and efficiently on service delivery," he said.
During the current financial year, 3 500 entry level trainees and 600 Public Service Act officers were enlisted. During this period, Cele said, there were 32 000 promotions and grade progressions.
Meanwhile, 940 Special Task Force, TRT and the National Intervention Unit members will be re-graded during this financial year.
Cele said the police cannot allow the recent developments to kill the morale in the service.
"Police management will embark on a process of a vigorous internal communication to take all members on board in understanding the promotion process and the phases thereof," he said.
Growing the service
Next Monday, Cele will meet the country's 1 147 police station commanders, as well as provincial and national management to address and unpack this matter at length and to further engage on other issues of national importance.
"It is also imperative to note that out of the set target of 3 500 entry level trainees, as announced in the Budget Vote, SAPS exceeded the target and enlisted a total of 5 000 entry level trainees out of a number of 517 000 applicants," the Minister said.
In relation to the recruitment of entry level trainees, Cele said he is concerned by some objections regarding the legitimacy of the SAPS recruitment process from those who have not met the criteria after undergoing a rigorous selection process.
"The National Commissioner and myself are processing this matter in detail internally and will pronounce on a way forward in due course," he said.
The promotion process, Cele said, would cost R2 billion.
"Due to financial implications, the process has been broken down in a three-year cycle for completion, in an effort to address the remaining backlog of 45 000 members that are due to be promoted.
"Having full appreciation of the figures outlined above, it is quite clear that the policy directive on these matters is very progressive and needs to be supported and applauded.
"As the SAPS, we have responded positively to the Thuma Mina call and delivered beyond the set target of promoting 32 053 members in a period of one financial year. This has never happened before in the history of this organisation."
However, Cele conceded that the implementation process by police management has gaps and needs to be improved with speed in addressing some of the genuine concerns raised.
The national police management is expected to visit all provinces to further unpack the process of promotions at cluster and district level and further unpack the entire Employer Value Proposition that is aimed at addressing all human resource matters.
Cele urged members of SAPS to take the police leadership into confidence with regards to promotions.
"This matter of promotions will be further addressed with the speed it deserves to benefit the entire SAPS family and amicably with all parties involved, including labour unions," he said.
The Minister also urged police officers to keep to the oath of office, which binds them to give full recognition to the needs of the SAPS and to cooperate with the community and government.