Crippling delay for cops

2014-11-19 00:00

HUNDREDS of police cars are gathering dust as theft, corruption and inhospitable conditions have crippled a vital police workshop in Pietermaritzburg.

A fleet of police cars that fill an adjacent field while waiting for parts or maintenance has left the crime fighting force paralysed.

The police garage, tasked with the service and repair of cars from 25 stations, has been brought to its knees.

A recent oversight visit conducted by the Democratic Alliance revealed:

• 128 police vehicles are awaiting maintenance and repair services. The number of cars awaiting attention filled an entire field adjacent to the garage complex.

• The Pietermaritzburg garage supports 25 police stations in the Pietermaritzburg, Plessislaer and Howick clusters. Due to inefficiencies and delays at the Ladysmith garage, it currently accepts vehicles from as far afield as Lady­smith, Estcourt and Winterton, which adds to the burden.

• Raw sewage from pipes in Oribi Village flows down the gutters outside on a weekly basis, making working conditions unbearable.

A source within the police garage, who requested anonymity, said problems were endemic.

“Corruption has pushed us to this point. There once was a blanket authority for vehicle repairs up to a certain amount, so when people in the private sector cottoned on to this, prices became horrendously inflated,” he said.

“Now as the situation stands, the authority to repair and lack of parts takes an age so cars stand here for weeks and while they do, parts go missing. Theft is rampant at the garage,” the source added.

Another police source, who could not be named as he is not authorised to speak to the press, said that vehicle shortages were “crippling”.

“This has affected everyone and it has become a never-ending issue across all the police units. Every police station across the country is feeling the knock,” he said.

The officer, a veteran policeman, said repairs at the police garage took months.

“You are looking at two to three weeks if you are lucky but usually your car will be stuck in there for a couple of months. We have one vehicle that has been stuck inside the workshop for a year for work that could have been attended to in under a week,” he said.

“The officer reports for duty and then nothing can be done because there are no vehicles to do the job. It is like sending us out there with no boots.”

DA spokesperson Rishigen Viranna decried the delays, insisting that garage staff were paralysed by poor infrastructure and unavailable parts.

“The entire situation at the police’s ­Pietermaritzburg garage is unacceptable. Both garage staff and the many dedicated police men and women who want to do their jobs properly are being hamstrung.”

“The DA will call on the portfolio chairperson to insist that senior provincial police officials are held to account at the next meeting of the portfolio committee. I will also ask that officials from KZN’s Community Safety and Liaison Department be present to explain how this debacle escaped their oversight function,” Viranna said.

He said urgent redress was needed.

“We expect an urgent turnaround strategy for the police’s Pietermaritzburg garage. The result is that police vehicles are not attended to promptly. This leads to police stations either without any vehicles or a shortage of vehicles and police members not being able to respond to emergency calls. The overall result is poor police response times and rising crime levels,” he said.

Police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane referred comment to their national office, who had not responded to questions at the time of going to press.


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