A sergeant who overturned a police vehicle then concocted an “implausible” story to cover up the fact that he had taken it without permission has lost his job.
The labour court in Port Elizabeth overturned a bargaining council commissioner’s decision that Mzilowo Hoza’s misconduct was not serious enough to warrant dismissal.
Hoza appealed to the safety and security bargaining council when he was fired after the accident near Grahamstown in 2013.
Three years later he won his job back.
The police appealed‚ and now Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje has overturned the ruling of commissioner Naledi Burwana-Bisiwe‚ an advocate‚ which he described as “extraordinary” and “beyond comprehension”.
At his arbitration hearing‚ Hoza – a Police‚ Prisons and Civil Rights Union shop steward – said he took the police vehicle for a rhino-poaching operation.
Having pursued a suspect without success‚ he was driving back to Fort Brown police station‚ north of Grahamstown‚ when he picked up a hitch-hiker who turned out to be someone he knew from his home town of Peddie.
Then a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction crashed into him.
Hoza was charged with using a police vehicle without permission‚ damaging it‚ falsely claiming he was chasing a suspect‚ unlawfully transporting a member of the public‚ failing to complete his pocketbook and reckless driving.
Tlhotlhalemaje said once Burwana-Bisiwe accepted the testimony of Hoza’s commanding officer that no rhino-poaching operations had been planned on the evening of the accident‚ and that the sergeant had no authority to use the vehicle‚ “that should have been the end of the matter”.
But the commissioner went on to concoct an “entirely unsustainable” justification for his reinstatement.
“If anything‚ his concocted version of events coupled with the dire consequences of his misconduct served as aggravating factors‚” said the judge.
“It is completely unacceptable for police officers … to use and abuse state assets as if they were their own personal properties.
“It is the hapless taxpayer that is continually burdened by the costs of such abuse. That culture of impunity can only be countenanced by misguided reinstatement orders such as in this case‚ with a meaningless message that offenders have learnt their lessons from their misconduct.”