Police ministry, DA at odds over choppers

2012-07-24 22:35

Cape Town - Nearly half of the SA Police Service's fleet of 37 helicopters are grounded, awaiting "routine" inspection, the DA said on Tuesday.

"The Democratic Alliance is receiving reports that helicopters belonging to the SA Police Service [SAPS] Air Wing have been grounded for months," DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said in a statement.

She said 15 of the air wing's 37 helicopters were on the ground awaiting "routine" inspection, while three more were in a hangar in Cape Town awaiting repairs.

"This now brings the total of grounded SAPS helicopters, which we know of, to 18 out of 37. This is nearly half of the entire air wing," said Kohler Barnard.

Contacted for comment, police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi accused Kohler Barnard of politicising police operational matters.

"Since when is Kohler-Barnard a technical expert on air wings? Does she even know when and under [what] conditions the helicopters must be airborne, or go for maintenance? We do not think so."

Mnisi said the ministry had emphasised the principle of cost effectiveness across the department to SAPS management. This included the maintenance and control of aircraft.

"These [helicopters] are instruments of [our] trade, which enable police to fight crime; as such, they cannot be [in the] air for the fun of it.

"We therefore support our management when they properly manage the fleet and, further, encourage them to do so; they must ignore prophets of doom, who are attempting to politicise even operational matters."

He suggested the DA was trying to use the SAPS for political purposes.

"They have failed before, and they will still fail in their endeavours to utilise SAPS as a political tool to project their own interests."

In her statement, Kohler Barnard said "various sources" claimed maintenance of the helicopters had not been carried out "because SAPS has yet to decide who should be awarded the service contract".

The grounded helicopters had cost between R15m and R20m each. "This means that nearly R300m worth of crime-fighting equipment is not currently being used to keep our citizens safe."

In addition, the Robinson R44 helicopters, which the SAPS bought ahead of the 2010 World Cup, "are apparently yet to be used".

The Robinson helicopters - the SAPS was thought to have bought four - were fitted with specialised crime-fighting equipment, such as searchlights and infra-red technology.

Kohler Barnard said she would be submitting parliamentary questions to try and establish what was happening with the air wing's helicopters.

"These helicopters should not be sitting around in the hangars, waiting for the SAPS to decide who should be given a contract to maintain them. They need to be in the sky, tracking down the criminals who terrorise our communities," she said.

Officials at the police department's communications unit were not immediately available for comment.

  • neil.fromearth - 2012-07-24 23:14

    Keep up the good work Dianne!! Vote DA and make a difference. It is the only alternative to the ANC which can't run an egg and spoon race, let alone a municipality.

  • phoofolo.lebohang - 2012-07-24 23:17

    Its time for police officers to earn what they derserve... D.A fight for police salaries to be adjusted you'll get more votes. Because its almost 20 years SAPS running with empty promises. Corruption it will end.

      phoofolo.lebohang - 2012-07-24 23:32

      There is high rate of crime in the country bcoz police officers they are not earning enough. They are getting easily to be bribed with R20 and R50....coz they live with stress via the enviroment of work they are doing and salary as well.

      blip.noodlum - 2012-07-25 00:00

      Police earn quite adequate wages and they won't work any harder if you merely paid them more, just as a cup of coffee doesn't taste any better if you double the price but keep all the same ingredients. If you think you can get better wages outside the force, hand in your resignation and move there.

      martin.britchford.5 - 2012-07-25 07:31

      phoofolo.lebogang for the most part todays police do earn what they deserve, alot deserve to just be fired and left in poverty, some deserve triple their pay, but 85% of the mafia force deserve nothing

      martin.britchford.5 - 2012-07-25 07:32

      cops think they are gonna be millionaires by being police, no, its a calling, like being a game ranger, its done for the love, not for the money, find a new job if you wanna be a rich man, like a politician or pastor perhaps?

  • martin.marais.90 - 2012-07-24 23:25

    They are on the ground due to no AA pilots available to fly them while their are a ton of white pilots available... (In aviation myself and know this for a fact) What does the minister know about aviation????

      andre.vandeventer.16 - 2012-07-25 07:19

      Right, and to quote another ANC big wig;s silly phrase: "you don't have to be an alcoholic to be a bottle store owner!" Of course you don't have to be an aviation engineer or pilot to know that the choppers need to be in the air and not on the ground to combat crime. They probably did not settle their last servicing bills!

      TheyTookMyNickLaZynEko - 2012-07-25 07:42

      AA/BEE ARE racist policies. That is not equality.

  • rontheogre - 2012-07-24 23:33

    Just when I thought that the ANC cadres cannot utter more inane comments, they go ahead and surprise me. Zweli Mnisi, with your statement you have proven that most of your brain is in the same condition as our chopper fleet. As many as possible of them should be working and ready for deployment keeping in mind our crime rate. When I was in the SAPS these choppers were essential, not just in apprehending criminals after the fact, but were used as a deterrent in high incidence areas to PREVENT CRIME, the SAPS's First Priority! You seem to believe these machines are only to be used after the horse has bolted. We are tired of idiotic statements used to cover up incompetence that is costing lives. I am glad that I left the SAPS a few years ago as I can only imagine the frustration of the honest and hard working members that sit with non-existing, inoperable or broken equipment and so called leaders. Another example of how little thought is given to those that you are supposed to SERVE, not humour or rule.

      patsy.smith.125 - 2012-07-25 16:26

      Has it occurred to anyone that the reason these helicopters are sitting waiting to be fixed is because no-one has offered a big enough bribe to get the tender????

  • Storm West - 2012-07-24 23:41

    Tsk! Tsk! ANC is so defensive! Use that energy rather in defending our human right not to be robbed, raped and murdered...

  • Gerald Jordaan - 2012-07-24 23:47

    In Africa preventative maintenance is a totally foreign concept!! Whatever is either new or its f*cked..nothing in between!!

  • Andrew - 2012-07-25 00:00

    Spokesman or Incompetent? Regardless whether 40% of helicopters are down for maintenance, is it the job a police spokesman to complain about questions posed by a politician? I think not. Just another political appointee.

  • BulletProof. - 2012-07-25 00:46

    Pfff!!!Check the Airforce ones and you will be surprise too.

  • sean.crookson - 2012-07-25 00:54

    Funnily enough, Erna, when you try and ask the DA questions, they accuse you of attention seeking, being a troll and other nasties. Check out the Twitter interactions between @Casinfo and Alan Winde.

      raath - 2012-07-25 13:19

      Twitter and an official inquiry are two worlds apart.

      raath - 2012-07-25 13:19

      haha "Crookson" - is Zuma your dad? :p

  • Billy - 2012-07-25 01:45

    why is it taking so long to select the helicopter maintenance contract? is someone not happy with the kickback they have been offered? who approves these contracts and verifies its honest?

  • jones.mkandawire - 2012-07-25 04:20

    Hey pilot brothers just wanted to let you know that not only whites can be pilots(so you wish). Im one myself and gosh i dont owe it to SA white hypocrites. So full of themselves.

      joe.irwin.50 - 2012-07-25 04:23

      I know where you can find a job as a helicopter pilot Jones.

      vernon.samuel.7 - 2012-07-25 07:13

      I hope that you are a better pilot than you are a reader. This article has nothing whatsoever to do with black/white pilots or white hypocrites.

      longile.bongani - 2012-07-25 07:30

      so arent you embarressed about your black brothers lack of ability to give you something to fly??

      Philip - 2012-07-25 08:35

      Don't forget to lower the nose when you stall!! then you'll be right up their ass!!

      sanda.mnyazi - 2012-07-25 11:45

      hahahaha you lot are just plain stupid

  • joe.irwin.50 - 2012-07-25 04:21

    I doubt if Zweli Mnisi is a technical expert either. There is no excuse for having half of the choppers nonoperational. P*ss poor management, nothing less.

  • sizwe.nyembe - 2012-07-25 05:02

    \These helicopters are instruments of our trade which enable police to fight crime; as such, they cannot be in the air for the fun of it\. Your are spewing hogwash busta┬ąd! Which crime are you fighting? How many times have criminals escaped from prisons and crime scenes with your police failing to catch them because these helicopters are not working? Before it was the race card and citizens got tired of it, now you have deviced a new strategy to evade critisism which goes like \the opposition or the DA is politicising\. We are tired of it all and we demand nothing else but responsibily and accountability from public officials starting with the departments of education in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

      danielle.vlok - 2012-07-25 07:52

      I couldn't have said it better myself!

      joe.irwin.50 - 2012-07-25 11:28

      Well said Sizwe.

      longile.bongani - 2012-07-25 11:37

      Sizwe for president

      Gerald Jordaan - 2012-07-25 12:52

      @Sizwe..tells it like it is!! In Africa NEVER ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY....ALWAYS blame someone / something else !!

  • White.Tiger.Diamond.Paw - 2012-07-25 05:05

    That's because they then invest in companies which they then subcontract to the Police earning themselves money, all the while not even using them for proper surveillance/police activities to fight crime/criminals but rather normal civillians as they are in collusion with the real criminals!

  • lerato.kay.3 - 2012-07-25 05:43

    \These [helicopters] are instruments of [our] trade, which enable police to fight crime; as such, they cannot be [in the] air for the fun of it.\ What a statement, DA's source is weak that was silly for them to base their argument on hearsay I suggest a proper investigation before you run to the press

      christoffel.nel - 2012-07-25 05:49

      Eish... and YOU know exactly?

      blip.noodlum - 2012-07-25 05:53

      Why? You act on information right away and seek verification from the responsible minister. It's his job to have the answers.

      vernon.samuel.7 - 2012-07-25 06:59

      I think that the point is that the services should be planned, based on peak period and quiet period requirements. Alternatively, maybe 9 choppers are out of commission each quarter for maintenance. Makes sense to me. Having half of them out at any given time reeks of lack of planning. As for your assertion that the DA always runs to the press; well history shows us that the only time that government (aka the ANC) takes any issue seriously is when there is a public uproar. So maybe it is a good thing that the DA keeps us updated. Otherwise governance in this country is very secretive.

      JohannP - 2012-07-25 07:18

      Blind ANC supporters like yourself are like wives with abusive husbands. Keep saying that it was the last time, but next time he might beat you to death.

      longile.bongani - 2012-07-25 07:38

      yes Lerato what a statement.............................. Do you not think as we have one of the highest crime rates in the world, it might just be an idea to use these choppers all day every day to respond to the thousands of emergencies this country has daily. Do you really believe this buffooon when he says they do not need to be in the sky. You then must believe we have far too many choppers. If so have you ever wondered why we might have so many more choppers than we need. Maybe you are a benefactor of that contract !!! As I cannot see any other reason for your comment !

      Zahir - 2012-07-25 07:56

      Anc has made mismanagement the standard practice the DA must expose their actions

      Erna - 2012-07-25 12:40

      If it wasn't that the anc couldn't be trusted, it wouldn't be necessary for the DA to be the watchdog that they are. If it wasn't for the DA and the media, the people of SA would no damnall what was going on in this country.

  • Michael - 2012-07-25 06:11

    Its DA again, how will SAPS do it work while the DA is a constant irritant, being an opposition party does not mean work of government must be disturbed everyday.

      tom.vorster - 2012-07-25 06:48

      And how is raising questions about the helicopters disturbing the government work? Its not like the helicopter techniciam has to stop fixing the helicopter to answer the DA's question.

      vernon.samuel.7 - 2012-07-25 07:04

      Sure Michael, let's wait for them to squander another billion of our taxes before we call them to account. Twat.

      longile.bongani - 2012-07-25 07:44

      you better get used to it Michael, it is gonna be DA every time

      Brad - 2012-07-25 07:46

      Micheal, you seriously need to learn how to speak and write. and when you have aquired the skill, THEN COMMENT

      Zahir - 2012-07-25 07:59

      Anc has proven time and time they are unable to manage any basic services for people

      el.torro.509 - 2012-07-25 09:53

      No Micheal, the opposition are part of government. Democracy does not mean mob rule, that's simply tyranny of the majority. The opposition role is to act as a check and a balance to prevent the ruling party from abusing their power. Therefore do not criticise the opposition rather take their criticism on board and make your own party look better by fixing what's broken... In this case rather a lot

      Erna - 2012-07-25 12:43

      Quite frankly Michael, if we knew government was doing its work properly, the DA could concentrate on other things, and not be the government's watchdog.

  • Danny Cash Cinti - 2012-07-25 06:29

    Instead of signing billion rand bogus lease deals, SAPS should be spending time and money on training and updating crime fighting technologies. Fact is that crime is rampant in SA and until crime is under control SAPS should be pressurised to perform. If our police commissioners are crooks, how does the rest of the organization expect to operate properly. Thuli Madonsela is the only person fit to run the SAPS properly in my view.

  • fairness.iseverything - 2012-07-25 06:44

    Mmmm, that makes about as much sense as saying that the Limpopo students failure rate this year is due to apartheid. Make no mistake, the leaders aren't stupid - the people voting for them is different story.

  • timothy.coetzee.56 - 2012-07-25 06:48


  • sisie.indola - 2012-07-25 06:59

    Oh hell - ANC making excuses again. Don't they ever get tired of of lying, or does every ANC member in government get a book of catch phrases. Obviously the "MAINTENANCE" crew in every department that helped to keep the wheels turning smoothly in the old days does not exist anymore - obviously beneath them (not enough scope for tenders/bribes/bonuses whatever). Everything the ANC touches seems to break, oh that's right there is a method to the madness - it called another tender or how can we screw the public over once again.

  • Don.Tandy - 2012-07-25 07:10

    I wonder if 'Africa' will ever understand the concept of preventative maintenance, or is it just that new projects offer so much more opportunity for the tenderpreneurs.

  • Wayne - 2012-07-25 07:38

    Mnisi, its simple. Are half the choppers grounded awaiting routine maintenance; YES or NO? Stop politicising the matter and answer the question dammit!

  • whoowhoohoo - 2012-07-25 07:42

    Shame, and mr. Mnisi is all of a sudden an expert on helicopters. The way the cadre cops have f'd up all the police cars and other equipment I am surprised that they still have any choppers left. Maybe some of the missing ones have already been sold to buddies across the border or are being used by criminal buddies of the ANC for committing crimes like smuggling. Who knows ! With these primitive idiots everything is possible !

  • phillip.havenga - 2012-07-25 07:53

    Oh ANC you stupid sh*ts, the DA like yourselves is a political party, the running of the country is a political thing, so tell me how is the DA politicising what is already politics?

  • pws69 - 2012-07-25 08:02

    The DA are politicising an issue = the DA is right, and the anc have screwed up yet again. The moment I hear that phrase coming out of an anc mouth, I know they have no TRUTHFUL answer.

  • robin.stobbs.9 - 2012-07-25 09:40

    AAh! The DA know nothing about aeronautics and are not technical experts? Give me strength - I suppose Zweli Mnisi knows it all then? Excuses, excuses for the usual utter incompetence.

  • rob.bayliss.94 - 2012-07-25 11:33

    Information regarding light aircraft and helicopter maintenance is in the public domain. European standards can be found at: It is extremely disengeneous of the minister to criticise the opposition when it subjects the governments performance....after all that is exactly what an opposition is supposed to do. The trouble is that all of the exposure creates a scenarion where informed people have a heightened awareness of the risks out there. I mean, does anyone not feel in danger when they use any public facility in SA?

  • ludlowdj - 2012-07-25 12:14

    Bottom line, this is another government failure, just another in a long line stretching back to 1994. The only plausible explanation is a total lack of pre-planning, and routine maintenance is most definitely not a justifiable answer. there is no excuse for having more than 5 aircraft grounded at any given time. And yes I have the necessary training and background in aircraft to make that statement.

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