Durban - A KwaZulu- Natal police station has come under fire from locals and opposition parties for its lack of response to complaints, it’s depleted police vehicle fleet and poor infrastructure.
The Mid-Illovo police station in rural KZN, 88km from Durban, has been criticised for the poor state of the building and its police officials who do not respond adequately to complaints from the community.
During an inspection last week, Rishigen Viranna, a DA member of the provincial legislature, raised concerns about the state of the leased buildings used as a station.
He said only 50 percent of the patrol fleet was working and about two thirds of the detectives’ vehicles were in a usable state. The missing vehicles, he said, were all sent for repairs in Pietermaritzburg.
He said in some instances, police had to use the station commander’s vehicle to attend to complaints.
Responding to the claims, KZN police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said the vehicles were roadworthy and they operated largely on gravel roads daily.
Citing security concerns, Zwane said he could not disclose the number of vehicles at the station used for patrol and detective use.
“Operational issues are addressed normally and there are no abnormalities… At this stage our police stations are operating normally,” he said.
“There is no crisis that we know of. Members are reporting for duty as usual, complaints are attended to in time and crime is being managed properly.”
Viranna, however, said there were numerous complaints from residents about the deteriorating condition of the station and the lack of vehicles.
“Vehicles are going for maintenance for months, and this is something that should be taking about two days (to fix),” he said.
During inspection, Viranna said police officials had told him the budget for new vehicles had already been exhausted, and said the station had no funds to replace the vehicles in a poor state immediately.
“The situation has got so bad that people are turning to private security. This is a very rural area with many farms and tribal homelands around… crime is up and the main problem is robbery,” he said.
Viranna has called on Community Safety MEC Willies Mchunu and KZN’s provincial police commissioner to urgently intervene in the “delivery crisis”.
A Daily News team visited the station on Wednesday. Were it not for the South African and SAPS flags, from afar, one would never imagine that the old small building with an ageing corrugated roof was a police station.
We passed a police VW Caddy with three uniformed police officers when we arrived, but there were no other patrol or detective officers’ vehicles in the yard.
The general state of the building seemed poor, and it appeared to be in need of a major revamp. Inside the charge office, a large IT server was positioned in the middle of the room and was not fixed to a wall.
There were several detective officers present and two uniformed policewomen at the charge office.
The station commander said he was not allowed to comment.
Mchunu’s spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, said the department was not aware of the concerns raised, but said it would try to ascertain if the issues were affecting service delivery in the area.
He said they had not received a complaint from either the DA or any member of the public.
Liz Dieieriks, a businesswoman in the area, said there was “absolutely no policing” in the area. She said the situation had gradually got worse year-on-year since she had arrived nine years ago.
Dieieriks, who is a member of a local farmers’ association club, recalled an occasion when she reported drug dealers who were dealing in front of the police station, but said that her complaint fell on deaf ears.
On another occasion, she said, a man was knocked down by a speeding car about two houses away from the station, but when she called in to report the matter, the police response to the alert was that there were no vehicles, although the incident had taken place a few metres from their doorstep.
“Personally, I’ve never had a problem, but we have to be careful at all times… The problem is that people report matters but the police do not sort them out,” she said.
Dieieriks has a double concrete and electric wire fence around her home and subscribes to the armed response security in the area.
Hilton Hackland, the former vice-chairman of the community police forum, who was allegedly shuffled out of the forum for being too vocal about policing matters, said there seemed to be adequate personnel at the station, but questioned how much work they were doing.
Hackland said “there is no police van available” was popular with the officers when people called for help, and said the police cars were mostly seen taking officers home.
Another businessman, Shaun Hollander, said there was clearly a problem with the police station building, and the vehicles had been a problem for about four years.
He said a Pietermaritzburg police officer tasked with the management of the fleet was always in the small rural town to deal with vehicle problems.
“The police here are great and they help a lot of people, but with the issue of the vehicles, it’s a problem. I think there’s just no budget for them and the problem has been visible in the past three to four years,” he said.
“The vehicles are really old. They go for repairs in Pietermaritzburg all the time, and when they come back, something else breaks and they have to be sent back. They should probably sell all the old ones and get new ones.”
Hollander’s business, like many others in the area, is armed with security and there are beams around the property.