Eastern Cape SAPS wings clipped as helicopters grounded

Issued by Bobby Stevenson, MPL
Shadow MEC for Safety and Security

The South African Police Service in the Eastern Cape have had their wings clipped, and currently have no air support at all, as their helicopters are grounded, severely hamstringing their crime-fighting abilities.

Criminals need to live in fear of the sound of helicopters overhead and searchlights at night. This is what is required to hunt them down if we are going to have an effective criminal justice system.

Gang violence, stock theft and murder need to be curtailed in the Eastern Cape and eyes in the sky play a key role in doing just that. However, that is currently not the case.

In response to a parliamentary question, the Community Safety MEC, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, said that of the four helicopters allocated to the Eastern Cape, none are currently operational.

One has been out of operations for more than two and a half years, and another for one year and nine months. Even more concerning is that two of the four helicopters will only be back in service next year.

See Response IQP 45 Q 1086

In a capable state, it cannot take two and a half years to fix a helicopter, when we have an average of 13 people being murdered every day in this province.

In the 1990s, there were three helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft operational in our province, based in Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, and East London.

These helicopters play a critical role in the deployment of rapid response forces. The tracking of criminals, as well as acting as a deterrent.

Five of the top 10 stations in South Africa for stock theft are in the Eastern Cape, and helicopters could significantly assist in fighting against this scourge. They could also assist in responding to farm murders. It would be much more efficient to deploy these helicopters to track down criminals as they try to flee from the scene.

These helicopters are also necessary to help fight against gang violence, drug smuggling in and around our seashores and many other crimes. Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft could also be used to combat the escalating truck hijackings in the Eastern Cape, where in the last three months, 43 trucks were hijacked.

I will be following up with MEC Tikana-Gxothiwe, to request that the service contracts for these helicopters be urgently reviewed, so that they can be repaired timeously. These helicopters need to be rapidly brought back into operations with full speed!

The DA will continue to fight for a modern and fully equipped police service so that we can bring down the high rate of crime in the Eastern Cape.