Trade union Solidarity tomorrow faces the police in the Labour Court to seek posthumous promotion for police air wing Warrant Officer Tinus Gouws killed in a helicopter accident in July, aged 39.
Gouws’ lack-of-promotion is one of eight cases the union is fighting. Solidarity’s deputy general secretary, Dirk Hermann, says Gouws, who had been employed by the police for over 20 years at he time of his death, was not promoted from inspector (now warrant officer) to captain due to the implementation of affirmative action, even though he was the best candidate for promotion.
The union says the police’s legal team has asked that Gouws’ case be withdrawn. But Solidarity and Gouws’ family want the case to continue posthumously. Hermann says a victory will have definite benefits for the Gouws family. “If the court ultimately decides that the implementation of affirmative action was unfair, a request can be made for compensation to be paid to Gouws’ estate for the period in which he was not promoted. In addition, the promotion will result in an improvement in the pension payout to Gouws’ family.”
Hermann also accused the police of stalling in the matter despite national police chief General Bheki Cele making promises about protecting the families of the deceased at the time. “It’s a black Friday,” Cele said at the scene, breaking down in tears. Gouws, the pilot Captain Wickus Zaayman, 31, and five commandos from the Special Task Force were killed in misty conditions while responding to a reported hostage situation at eMalahleni (Witbank) when their helicopter exploded and crashed just prior to landing.
Hermann is positive that the union will achieve success in the case. “The trade union has already won three similar cases and these eight cases are based on the same principles,” Hermann said. In the latest victory, the Department of Correctional Services last week conceded that errors had been made in the application for the promotion of Solidarity member Herman Denysschen and it was decided to promote him retrospectively.
The union complains it has been trying for over a year to finalise pre-trial minutes and several drafts have already been presented. “Until the minutes have been signed by both parties, the cases cannot be placed on the roll,” says Hermann. “We get the impression that the state will do everything in its power to frustrate the legal processes. Even if justice could not be done for Gouws, it must still be done for his family,” he adds. Solidarity has now approached the court to compel the police to sign the pre-trial minutes.
If the police does show up for tomorrow’s proceedings, the judge will order that the pre-trial minutes be finalised and signed in the court building. If the SAPS does not show up, the cases will be placed on the unopposed roll. This means that the judge’s ruling will be made based only on Solidarity’s application and the SAPS will not be given the opportunity to oppose it.