The ruling comes after Major-General Sandra Malebe-Thema made racist and humiliating remarks towards various training personnel during an event at the SAPS Training Academy in Oudtshoorn in 2016. She complained that there were “too many white faces” and also insinuated that they were fat.
Trade union Solidarity, who pushed for the disciplinary hearing and also took the mater to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Labour Court, praised the ruling.
Advocate Sumayya Tilly, who chaired the disciplinary hearing of Malebe-Thema, recommended her dismissal following the general’s conviction on three charges of serious misconduct. 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.
According to Anton van der Bijl, Head of Legal Service at Solidarity, Malebe-Themba not only made herself guilty of racist and humiliating remarks but also vowed to stop “so-called discrimination against black students.”
The trade union acted immediately by submitting a formal complaint to the HRC in Cape Town in November 2016. Solidarity maintained 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 says the sanction found that Malebe-Thema didn’t show any remorse for her behaviour and that she kept arguing that she didn’t do anything wrong throughout the investigation. 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 matter 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 a lot of time and effort was spent by Solidarity to ensure that the SAPS fulfils its obligation to act upon these matters. I believe this will be a lesson for South Africa, that racism isn’t colour blind,” Van der Bijl concluded.