Fresh headache over cop vehicles standing idle at police garage

Police vehicles stand idle while waiting for repairs Picture: Eugene Coetzee
Police vehicles stand idle while waiting for repairs
Picture: Eugene Coetzee

The Port Elizabeth police garage, which has been plagued with issues in recent years, has more administration staff than mechanics to fix the vehicles. This came to light when parliamentary police portfolio committee members visited police stations and facilities in the metro.

The committee also urged Eastern Cape police top brass to do something about the poor management of the New Brighton police station.

On Wednesday, the team – which spent three days in the Bay – was at Port Elizabeth’s main police garage, in Forest Hill behind the airport.

This follows the specialist K9 and Flying Squad units’ constant vehicle issues – due primarily to their fleet consisting mostly of old vehicles, some with more than 300 000km on the clock.

DA shadow police minister Zakhele Mbhele said the inspection had revealed that the state garage had twice as many administrators “pushing papers” as mechanics.

“Figures . . . [show] the garage has 18 personnel doing administrative work [six of whom are administrative supervisors], while there are only nine mechanics to repair the more than 1 000 vehicles that pass through the garage annually,” he said.

The K9 unit has only one car on the road, with five in the police garage.

Some of these have been standing at the garage since June.

Brigadier Marinda Mills File picture: Eugene Coetzee
Brigadier Marinda Mills
File picture: Eugene Coetzee

Three have engine problems and two need minor repairs.

The Flying Squad has only three operational vehicles, with three other cars in the garage since Monday.

“Vehicles are crucial tools of the trade for the police service, affecting almost all aspects of police performance, from reaction times in emergency call-outs and visible patrolling for crime deterrence, to the speed [with which] detectives get to crime scenes or transport evidence to forensic facilities,” Mbhele said.

There were too many reports of vehicles being booked into the garage for relatively minor repairs and then standing idle for a week or more.

He said he would be submitting parliamentary questions to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko.

After inspecting the New Brighton police station yesterday, committee chairman Francois Beukman called on provincial commissioner Major-General Liziwe Ntshinga and cluster commander Major-General Funeka Siganga to intervene urgently in the police station’s management.

“It is apparent there is a serious management challenge with detective services at the station,” he said.

“This does not bode well for crime prevention and the ability to police the area.”

“Other challenges highlighted include poor street lighting, poor house numbering in informal settlements, a shortage of vehicles, confidentiality and office space for detectives, language barriers and poor handling of dockets.

“The committee is concerned about the increase in contact crimes … equally concerning are the lack of employment of informants and handling of dockets and other evidence materials.”

Provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills said they were aware of the committee’s issues relating to the police station’s structural layout and capacity.

Interventions would be launched to address other matters.

On the vehicles, Mills said: “The turnaround time and management structures have been under scrutiny for some time and the police head office has placed the garages under their direct sphere of management.

“Several improvements have been made and measures put in place . . . but there are still challenges which need to be addressed.”

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