A police disciplinary committee has ruled that a senior police officer must be be summarily dismissed for the racist and humiliating remarks she made towards training personnel at an event in Oudtshoorn in 2016.
Advocate Sumayya Tilly, who chaired the disciplinary hearing of Major-General Sandra Malebe-Thema, recommended her dismissal following the general’s conviction on three charges of serious misconduct early in December last year.
Malebe-Themba was the component head of basic police development in the human resources development division of the police when she made “discriminatory, derogatory, improper, unacceptable and inappropriate” remarks regarding race and “disparaging, insulting, humiliating and divisive” remarks about the weight of a selected group of staff at an SAPS Training Academy event in Oudtshoorn in 2016.
According to trade union Solidarity, which obtained a Labour Court order in 2017 to force the police to launch an internal investigation against Malema-Thema, she among other things stated that there were too many white faces occupying positions and training and that the so-called discrimination against black students would be stopped.
She also made “inappropriate comments” about a selected group of staff’s clothing and weight and accused some staff of being corrupt.
Tilly said Malebe-Thema’s misconduct was exceptionally serious as it involved discrimination and an attack on a person’s dignity and its gravity could not be overlooked.
She found that Malebe-Thema had showed a total lack of remorse for her conduct, stating at the disciplinary hearing that she had done nothing wrong, stood by what she said and would do the same thing today.
Tilly said the general’s length of service and unblemished disciplinary record played a lesser role where she was found guilty of misconduct that went to the heart of the employment relationship and violated the trust the employer placed in her.
She found that the general’s selective remarks had caused emotional harm to the staff members involved, which had a negative impact on their work and personal lives.
One woman testified that she felt so humiliated and hurt that she cried hysterically and subsequently became so depressed that she needed medical assistance and hospitalisation.
“…As a senior police woman [Thema] ought to have known better than to conduct herself in the manner that she did, by among other things directing discriminatory derogatory, disparaging and improper remarks to her subordinates, which were not only divisive but also resulting in bringing the SAPS into disrepute and prejudiced the discipline of the academy,” Tilly concluded.
Solidarity’s head of legal services Anton van der Bijl said they had submitted a formal complaint against the general with the Human Rights Commission and some of the general’s subordinates had also laid criminal charges against her.
He said the matter was one of the rare occasions where justice triumphed in a situation where a black person was blatantly racist towards white people and they believed this would be a lesson for South Africa that racism was not colour blind.