Police units grounded as van crisis piles up: Daily Dispatch

ROWS upon rows of police vehicles sit silent at the East London police garage in West Bank waiting to be fixed.

A police captain estimated that the number of police cars waiting for parts in the garage now stands at 200.

They are vans, sedans and taxis meant to be serving the crime-ridden communities of the Buffalo City Metro.

Sources said some vehicles had been there since March.

The East London Tactical Response Team, meant to operate with eight vehicles, is down to just one. The family violence and child protection unit is down from 10 vehicles to five and the Gonubie detective unit from six to one. The chair of Bhisho’s safety and liaison committee, Michael Peter, said the revelation comes two weeks before their meeting with provincial police commissioner LieutenantGeneral Celiwe Binta.

“This is one of the issues we’ll be seeking answers to. When a police vehicle is taken to a garage what is the period it is supposed to stay there before it is released?”

Peter said his committee had heard heartbreaking stories in communities resulting from lack of police visibility and slow reaction to incidents.

Last month provincial police spokeswoman Colonel Sibongile Soci said they were aware of the mechanical challenges facing one of the biggest police garages in the Eastern Cape.

“The unforeseen burden of motor vehicle accidents, mechanical failures, turnaround time of garages and the sometimes lack of attentive use of vehicles by our members must be taken into consideration as it is not a cut-and-dried issue.”

According to Soci the contract with the service provider for supplying vehicle parts expired on June 30.

“As a result, there was no contract in place from July 1 to July 31. This then forced the garages to seek quotations on a day to day rotational basis.

“Delays were then experienced in receiving the parts and thereafter the servicing and repairing of vehicles at the SAPS garage,” Soci said.

She said the SAPS now had a new contract with Midas.

Midas contract manager in Gauteng Phillip Makgalwa said the East London garage had sent quotes worth R460 000 for the month of August.

“The quotes were for small items such as brake pads and filters,” said Makgalwa.

Police sources yesterday said little had improved. “There have been more vehicles coming in than going out. There are only four mechanics and some of the cars they are dealing with are high-tech vehicles that they don’t know how to fix,” said the source. DA safety and security spokesman Bobby Stevenson said the backlog was caused by incompetent fleet management. The portfolio committee on safety identified this problem a long time ago.

“This is horrific,” Stevenson said, adding that visible policing cuts crime by 40%. — ZWANGA MUKHUTHU zwangam@dispatch.co.za