The wheels have once again fallen off Port Elizabeth’s Flying Squad unit, which has no cars left to respond to emergencies.
Out of a total of 15 response vehicles, seven are in the state garage for mechanical or accident-related repairs, while a further seven have been scrapped.
Unit members said yesterday that the only operational vehicle was the commander’s car which, due to its high mileage, was mainly used to visit the scenes of crimes that had already occurred.
They said they had been begging surrounding police stations for vehicles since the weekend so they could respond to priority crimes.
Those who are unable to secure vehicles sit at the office or help out at other police stations.
The last response vehicle was booked in at the state garage at the weekend for repairs.
Provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills said the lack of running vehicles at the unit was brought to the attention of management yesterday and steps were under way to address the situation.
“Seven of the unit’s vehicles are in the garage,” she said.
“This includes two brand new Toyota Corollas that experienced gearbox problems last week.
“We have allocated two vehicles to the unit on a temporary basis [yesterday] and more will be allocated until their vehicles are released from the garage.
“The unit will also be allocated new vehicles when we receive our latest order from the suppliers.”
Both the K9 unit, which also faces a vehicle crisis, and the Flying Squad assist police in 23 policing precincts, including the entire Nelson Mandela Bay region, Addo, Jeffreys Bay and other outlying towns.
In August, police launched a probe into Flying Squad commander Lieutenant-Colonel Godfrey Kunge who had pending internal charges against him relating to the abuse of state property, including the misuse of state vehicles, unauthorised use of vehicles and failure to report an accident.
Police top brass have refused to comment on the outcome of the probe, saying it is a matter between the employee and employer.
Several sources close to the case said Kunge had been found guilty on some of the charges, although they could not specify which ones.
The state garage in Forest Hill came under fire last month when parliamentary police portfolio committee members visited the garage, situated behind the Port Elizabeth Airport, for an inspection.
They found a multitude of issues, including that the garage had more administration staff on the payroll than mechanics.
The K9 and Flying Squad units have endured constant vehicle shortages over the years, mainly due to their fleets consisting mostly of old vehicles, some with more than 300 000km on the clock.
DA police spokesman Zakhele Mbhele said they had found during the inspection that the garage had twice as many “people pushing paper” as mechanics.
“The figures [show] the garage has 18 people 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 at the time.
Mbhele said he would be submitting parliamentary questions on the issue to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko.