Sorry state of KZN cop cars

2015-04-30 14:33
Damaged police vehicles lie abandoned in a field near the police garage in Oribi. Many police stations in           Pietermaritzburg have a shortage of vehicles for their officers.
PHOTO: JONATHAN BURTON

Damaged police vehicles lie abandoned in a field near the police garage in Oribi. Many police stations in Pietermaritzburg have a shortage of vehicles for their officers. PHOTO: JONATHAN BURTON

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PROVINCIAL police have quite literally had the wheels taken away from underneath them, with nearly half of all stations’ vehicles in for repairs.

And police officers, instead of patrolling the streets, have been relegated to be “desk jockeys” ­having to beg, borrow or use their own cars to carry out their duties.

And it appears that the ­problem is not going to go away soon, with chronic shortages of artisans and a multimillion-rand high court battle over who has the right to supply parts to the SAPS.

Officers revealed ­repairs can take anything from two weeks for a simple battery swop to a month for a service and up to four months for something more serious.

The South African Police Union KZN chairperson, Bongani Mncwango, believes unless the problem is rectified, police at the province’s 184 stations cannot execute their mandate to protect communities.

“Out of every 10 vehicles at a given station across the province, between three and five are lying in the garage. This is completely unacceptable. Some vehicles are so poorly repaired they are back in the workshop within a week.”

He said a chronic shortage of artisans was a key issue as well as stations not being allowed to repair and source parts locally, instead having to use designated police garages and source parts from central hubs such as ­Durban.

“The police are unable to carry out their duties. This leads to a vicious circle of the community reporting slow response to management, management complaining to the station, the station informing management their vehicles are in for repair and then management’s argument that the repairs are delayed because they are waiting for financial authorisation.”

Alexandra Road SAPS in March had 21 - out of its fleet of 80 - sitting in the police workshop.

The station has just over 100 staff.

At Pietermaritzburg Central, out of 42 vehicles used in visible policing only 16 were in use, with the remaining vehicles either on court duty, in for repairs or seconded to other units.

Pietermaritzburg CPF chairperson Claire Crawley said the problem goes beyond Alexandra Road and is affecting every police station in the region.

“At the SAPS garage in Oribi vehicles are piling up. The ­turnaround time of repairing police vehicles is shocking and this is affecting various stations ability to respond to crime,” said Crawley.

Crawley said police officers are frustrated that they are immobile.

“It is a mess with officers having to share vehicles for a variety of tasks. This is a serious issue.”

A senior officer at Alexandra Road, not authorised to talk to the media, said they have to work via “phone and e-mail”.

“Police officers are having to work from their desks rather than getting into the community. This is hampering service delivery,” said the officer.

The officer said vehicle repairs are further delayed when the repair is outsourced.

“If a vehicle is outsourced one can add a further three weeks until it is released. This is because one needs to wait for the funds to be requisitioned and then released by the procurement department. If the repair costs are more than anticipated there is a further delay while more funds are requisitioned. The mechanics only start work once they are paid,” said the officer.

He said police officers sometimes have no choice but to use their own vehicles.

The DA’s spokesperson for police, Diane Kohler-Barnard, called the lack of operational vehicles “a catastrophe”.

“The high volume of repairs and slow turnaround time is the case all over the country and there is no sign of it changing any time soon.”

Attempts to get comment from the provincial police were unsuccessful

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