Durban - A couple who called the police after their Montclair home was broken into were told there were “no drivers” to send out - despite there being five police vehicles parked at the police station.
According to a senior police source, none of the police officers on duty at the time had driving licences.
The vehicles that were out were busy at other scenes, while one vehicle was being used to escort a prisoner to hospital.
This, forced Gerda Viljoen, 63, and her husband, Pieter, 66, to wait three hours before an officer with a driving licence could attend.
Earlier two of their calls – one to the police’s emergency 10111 number and the other to the Montclair police station – were allegedly not answered.
It was only after a second try to 10111 that Gerda said her call was answered. “We live alone. If we are ever in trouble at home we would want the police to pick up the phone and we would want them to send a van to our house. It is totally not right that they had no one to send out to us,” she said.
Gerda, on the advice of the Montclair Community Policing Forum (CPF) is compiling an official complaint which will be sent to police management.
The incident occurred on Sunday at around 5pm shortly after the Viljoens arrived home.
They discovered their back door had been smashed in and their home ransacked. A flat-screen television and jewellery had been taken as well as a small amount of money she had collected at church towards hampers for pensioners.
Gerda said that when her first two calls to the police were not answered, she sent a Whats-App message to a member of the CPF to inform them of the break-in.
She said when she did get hold of the 10111 call centre a short while later, the operator, who gave her a reference number promised to send someone to assist them.
“But no one came. The lady from our CPF came and sat with us from about 7pm. At 7.30 she had had enough and went to the station to find out what was going on. That’s when we heard there were no drivers. A police van eventually came out at about 7.50pm,” she said.
Police promised to send out fingerprint technicians, but by late on Tuesday technicians had not yet dusted for prints.
Gavin Hegter, chairman of the Montclair CPF, said it was “a huge problem” that many police officers did not have driving licences.
“I don’t understand how we can have policemen who can’t drive. This whole thing is further compounded by the lack of training and resources.
“Another problem is that we don’t have reservists anymore. Numbers have dwindled and they are not recruiting anymore. Reservists were a bunch of dedicated citizens… that could easily fill those gaps in policing,” he said.
According to figures released by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa last year – in reply to a parliamentary question by DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard – more than 16 800 officers countrywide did not have driving licences.
In KZN, 2 896 constables, 614 sergeants, 2 896 warrant officers, 888 captains, 256 lieutenant-colonels and 103 colonels were not licensed drivers.
Kohler Barnard said it was unacceptable that thousands of police officers could not drive.
“Taxpayers pay R68 billion a year towards the SAPS. There is a reasonable expectation that when you call the police they will come. It means that those people could have had 10 rapists in their home and the police would not have come because nobody could drive,” she said.
Kohler Barnard said that while the criteria for a job with the police included a matric certificate and a driving licence, the latter was relaxed during former police commissioner Bheki Cele’s administration as it was “racist”.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said they were disturbed by the allegations.
“There is no shortage of drivers in the SAPS, especially since it has been a requirement for enlistment into the SAPS since 2009. We can confirm that the allegations were brought to our attention by a member of the CPF, however, when an officer was sent to interview and obtain a statement from the complainant, she refused to provide him with a statement or co-operate with the investigation,” he said.
Viljoen denies she did not co-operate and alleges she was asked by the police officer not to write a formal complaint.
Naicker also said the 10111 call centre was not experiencing any problems.
“The call was recorded on their systems and dispatched to the Montclair patrol van. There are no problems with the 10111 lines. Our investigation is continuing,” Naicker said.