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By Malibongwe Dayimani

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7 traffic officer trainees booted out of college for having criminal records

A staggering 31 652 had applied for the year-long programme, which only takes 150 candidates.

The Eastern Cape government has booted out seven students from a traffic officer training programme for having criminal records.

In South Africa, a person with a criminal record is not allowed to work in law enforcement.

They were part of 150 candidates recruited this year for a year’s training to become traffic officers in the Eastern Cape.

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Shocking unemployment figures in Eastern Cape

The cadets were already two months into their studies when the criminal records were noticed.

This is despite recruiters having supposedly picked this up during the shortlisting stage.

The students were drawn from a staggering 31 652 people who had responded to an advert for the positions – a sad demonstration of the shocking unemployment levels in the province.

One student was dismissed for submitting a fake matric certificate.

Transport and safety MEC Xolile Nqatha revealed this in writing to the Eastern Cape legislature in Bhisho.

Nqata said: “Seven students were withdrawn due to previous convictions [criminal records] during February 2024. One student was dismissed from college during March 2024 for misrepresentation – submission of fake matric certificate.”

He was responding to questions posed by DA MPL Marshall von Buchenroder about the training programme.

R11 million to be spent on the programme

The department has pumped in more than R11 million into the programme to train traffic officers, Nqatha revealed.

If the statistics of the breakdown of the applications received per district is anything to go by, the Sarah Baartman region has the most unemployment in the Eastern Cape.

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A total of 6 068 applicants came from the district followed by Amathole district with 5 890.

OR Tambo was responsible for 5 553 applications, Alfred Nzo 4 955, Chris Hani 4 902 and Joe Gqabi 4 284.

Nqatha revealed that due to the large number of applications received, the selection process was done in three phases.

The applicants were subjected to a driving and fitness assessment.

The selection panel also conducted medical testing and criminal record checking.

The recruits are accommodated in guest houses in Gqeberha and attend training at Nelson Mandela Bay Traffic College, which costs taxpayers R8 million.

The department will pay a further R3.2 million for the tuition of the trainee traffic officers.  

Youth hardest hit by unemployment

The youth of the province are the hardest hit by the rampant unemployment with 70% of young people aged 15 to 24 unable to get jobs, Von Buchenroder said.

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“The Eastern Cape’s unemployment rate reached a staggering 41.9% in the fourth quarter of 2023. When you include discouraged work seekers, the expanded rate topped 47.1%. The consequence of government failures is a deepening unemployment crisis,” Von Buchenroder added.

Watch: Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane on unemployment in the province:

The SA Prisoners Organisation for Human Rights (SAPOHR) said it has long been calling for the expungement of criminal records from the crime register.

SAPOHR president Miles Budu said at a national ex-offender conference held in February 2016, the department of correctional services agreed to consider comments made on expungement of criminal records.

Clean criminal record non-negotiable in law enforcement

He said to this date, nothing has been done.

Budu said among recommendations made by his organisation was that ex-offenders should be employed in suitable environments which would not be conducive to repeat offenders.

“We recommended that if an offender was convicted for a white-collar crime, that the person should not be employed where money and finances are the core business in the work place. Also, it wouldn’t make sense to employ a person that was convicted for sexual violence in an environment where they would work with children and women.”

Approached for comment, Eastern Cape transport and safety spokesperson Unathi Binqose said a clean criminal record in law enforcement is “a non-negotiable”.  

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