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The shabby state of the Berea detective branch office has appalled officers working there to such an extent that they have decided to abandon their decrepit building in protest.
The 28 detectives have vowed not to return to the Morningside building until it is fixed, or they are moved.
Since Wednesday detectives have refused to work and it is estimated that each detective carries up to 60 case dockets.
A detective, who did not want to be named, said they handled up to 15 new cases every day.
Now cases were being registered at the Berea charge office but not being investigated, the source said.
Provincial police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said the Department of Public Works had been on site and was attending to repairs to the building. But he could not say when this would happen.
Any queries should be addressed to the Department of Public Works as “we don't handle the leases and repairs”.
Although Naicker said the branch had been told to move to the Berea station, this was denied by the detectives on Thursday, saying they wanted this mess sorted out.
The Berea detective branch office, located at the corner of Lambert and Lillian Ngoyi (Windermere) Road, has been in a state of disrepair for years and had not been attended to despite numerous complaints, said detectives.
They describe the structure as a health hazard, saying the ablution facilities were so disgusting they use those at the Windermere or Musgrave shopping centres.
“No human being should be working in this building under any circumstance; it is a complete health hazard for the members,” said Paul Antao, chairman of the Berea Community Police Forum.
“When we saw these problems we tried countless times to get the building repaired but because the wheels of the police department move so slowly nothing has been done.”
Antao said the policing forum had known about the situation since 2000.
The building, which used to house the Stamford Hill police station, was broken into in January when computers and other equipment were stolen.
It was not surprising, officers said, because most of the doors could not close properly or lock. Filing cabinets are placed in front of them to keep them closed.
There are broken windows, falling ceilings in every room and a leaking roof.
Ferns creep through air vents in some of the offices.
Detectives also complained that there was only one female and male toilet to serve 28 staff members.
Antao also said that having the main Berea police station and the detective branch in different places was a logistical nightmare. “There should simply be no separation. It is very difficult for members from one police station that serve such a huge area to work in different locations.
“We have been trying for months now to move the station to the main branch but there is no space.”
He said there had also been suggestions to move both to a new single location.
“At the main branch disabled people cannot get into the station or even park their cars,” he said.
One has to climb a steep staircase in order to reach the Berea charge office on Botanic Gardens Road, situated in a converted house.
Across KwaZulu-Natal, police and civilian employees are forced to work in similar ramshackle offices, sometimes without electricity.
At the oThongathi (Tongaat) police station the conditions have gone from bad to worse, said staff. Some departments were being moved to different premises.
The building that housed the station’s detective branch is reported to have deteriorated to such a point that members had to be moved to a new leased building down the road, putting a dent in the SAPS budget.
While the dilapidated structure is being refurbished, the main station had no electricity in certain areas for extended periods of time. This has forced members to leave their workstations and find areas within the building with a live power source.
According to a police source, the station’s management have not got their priorities right. “We don’t need a fence that will cost R300 000, we need to refurbish this building that is falling apart,” he said. “We have not had electricity for almost a year now.”
Meanwhile, things are improving slowly at the Bayview police station in Chatsworth. A new charge office is expected to be erected on Friday after the roof of the previous structure was blown off by storms in September last year.
The station’s toilet facilities, reported to be unusable, will also be receiving attention.
Naicker confirmed that repairs were being done at Bayview, however he denied there were power issues at oThongathi. “But they do experience outages due to power supply in the Tongaat area as a whole,” he said.
Naicker said detectives were being housed in a leased building hired by the works department as there was no space for them at the station. The fence, he said, was also being replaced by the department.
Department of Public Works spokesman, Thamsanqa Mchunu, had not responded to queries by time of publication.
Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said dilapidated police stations was a national problem, but that there was no excuse for it.
“The police department has one of the highest annual budgets appointed to them – R68 billion.”
Burger said national and provincial SAPS inspectorate units were failing to do their jobs properly.
“Although these units are around, they do not carry out their mandates correctly by inspecting the ethic of police work and even the police stations. We have found in our research that many stations operate without any inspection for years, even their vehicles are not inspected.”