Flying Squad's car shortage putting the brakes on fighting crime, Eastern Cape legislature hears

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SAPS in the Eastern Cape are facing more resource woes.
SAPS in the Eastern Cape are facing more resource woes.
Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo
  • Critical vehicle shortages in the Eastern Cape police's Flying Squad are hampering the battle against crime. 
  • Only 14 out of 48 vehicles allocated for the unit's six police stations in the province are working.
  • The unit in Mdantsane, the province's largest township, has no vehicles. 

A critical shortage of vehicles for the Flying Squad is hampering the fight against crime in the Eastern Cape, say authorities in the province. 

The Flying Squad, an elite crime-fighting unit of the police, is meant to quickly respond to priority, serious and violent crimes as well as provide visible policing along the country's major roads.

But Community Safety MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe has revealed only 14 of the 48 vehicles allocated to the six units across the province were operational.

Responding to questions from the DA in the Eastern Cape legislature, Tikana-Gxothiwe said only three of the 10 vehicles meant for Gqeberha were operational, and only three of the 11 meant for East London were in working order.

In Komani, only two of four vehicles are operational, while Qonce has three of seven and Mthatha three of nine.

The largest township in the Eastern Cape and probably the most dangerous, Mdantsane, has no vehicles. 

READ | All four police helicopters in Eastern Cape out of order - and former top cop warns of crime spike

It is meant to have seven vehicles but they are not operational. 

Explaining why the bulk of the vehicles are not in use, Tikana-Gxothiwe said five vehicles were not on the roads because they were waiting to be serviced, while a further 13 were awaiting mechanical repairs.

Six vehicles are waiting for new tyres.

The MEC added only seven of the 48 vehicles have less than 150 000km on the clock, with 22 vehicles having travelled more than 200 000km already.

The Eastern Cape Community Policing Forum Board said it would approach the police ministry to address the problems. 

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Its chairperson, Velani Mbiza-Gola, added because police garages that attended to cars were a competency of the national office in Pretoria, cars stayed for a long time at garages with workers awaiting instructions from Pretoria, even for minor issues that took an hour to fix. 

Mbiza-Gola said:
This is a concern because in a way it affects the speed and efficiency of service delivery but at the same time we understand the stats because the inefficiency and the lack of personnel, coupled with a tumbling system at the SAPS garage services is obviously the reason why the MEC revealed these stats. Most cars stay at the garages for minor issues like tyres or the replacement of bulbs. Ordinarily, when you take your own car to a private garages in town, you will be out of there with a new tyre and bulbs in less than an hour.

"We are putting a call to the ministry to attend to the mater of the garage contracts. This thing must be scrapped because it is a serious blockage to service to the community. 

"This garage system is not a competency of the province, or police station or district offices, only national can decide on matters of garages. The ministry must unlock this problem." 

READ | DA calls on SAPS to fire 374 Eastern Cape cops guilty of serious crimes

DA MPL Bobby Stevenson said the crippling vehicle shortage meant residents across the province were being denied rapid police response when they needed it most. 

He added: 
This must be particularly terrifying when robbers or rapists are invading your home. It is no wonder the province is losing the battle against serious crimes, if the first responders are unable to respond to the scene, because they do not have vehicles.

Crime statistics released last Friday showed murder and rape continue to skyrocket in the province, while car hijackings, cash-in-transit heists and business robberies are also on the increase.

"It is clear that the current arrangements in place to keep these vehicles on the road are failing and need to be re-evaluated. Additional budget is also need to be made available to replace the ageing fleet of vehicles," said Stevenson. 

"I will be raising this matter at the next sitting of the provincial legislature in December. We cannot expect our police to fight crime if they do not have the resources to do so."

Police, Prisons and Civil Rights Union chairperson Colonel Loyiso Mdingi could not be reached for comment.

His comment will be added once received.  

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