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Dozens of broken police vehicles are gathering dust in Western Cape workshops – some since April – while many police stations routinely suffer a crippling shortage of vehicles.
And two workshops claim the police owe them a total of R436 000 in unpaid vehicle repair bills. They are refusing to release any repaired vehicles or fix any of the others until they are paid.
Now the provincial Community Safety Department has launched an investigation. Concerned owners of engineering and mechanical workshops approached Community Safety MEC Dan Plato this week to plead with him to exercise his oversight over police on the matter.
On Tuesday, the Cape Argus visited two sites where workshops and warehouses were packed with police vehicles in various states of disrepair.
At DSP Engineering in Bridge Street in Plankenberg, Stellenbosch, about 20 police vehicles had gathered a thick layer of dust in two warehouses and a workshop.
Owner Donovan Parks, who has been repairing police vehicles for four years, said some of the vehicles had been there since April.
They included two VW Golf GTi’s, used by the Flying Squad. Other vehicles’ were from as far afield as Knysna, Prince Albert and Velddrif. But Parks said he could not continue to repair them as he had still not been paid for half a dozen other police vehicles he had already repaired and delivered to the police. He said he was owed R36 000.
At another site in Elsies River, another 30 police vehicles were found parked at a business specialising in engine re-bore rebuilds, gearbox, clutch, cylinder head and overhaul of differentials. Some of these vehicles had been there since March.
Staff at the company, who did not wish to be named, said there were about 10 repaired police vehicles and five engines ready for delivery as soon as they were paid for. The company was owed around R400 000 in connection with the 30 vehicles.
Another company said it had two police vehicles at its premises. One had been repaired, but would not be released until it was paid for. The second vehicle would be repaired only once the company had been paid for the first vehicle.
Plato was given a list of companies which he was told were subcontracted by a company in Joburg.
He was told this company got the contract in March to repair police vehicles in the province, and that the difficulties began then. One company said it had been battling to get payment “for months”.
The name provided to the Cape Argus was “Fleet Maintenance Specialist Ukhamba Management Consultant”, and read “Ukhamba Fleet Maintenance” on letterheads.
A staffer told the Cape Argus the business was owned by Ronnie Pillay.
When reached, he said: “We’re actually from Johannesburg. We were awarded the tenders for the Western Cape and the Northern Cape, but this was a new thing. But it’s too expensive for us to ferry the vehicles up and down. So we’ve subcontracted the vehicles out to eight or nine businesses in the Western Cape.
“But since October 2 we’ve had our own workshop in Ottery, and we’re working late nights and weekends to try to get through the backlog.”
Pillay promised the vehicles at the sites visited by the Cape Argus would be paid for “shortly – hopefully by the end of the month”.
Ukhamba is also the name of the empowerment partner of the Imperial group of companies, which includes fleet management. But staff at Imperial said Pillay’s company had no link to Imperial.
Several sources interviewed by the Cape Argus questioned why Pillay’s company had won a tender in the first place when it had had no workshops in the Western Cape.
Plato said in response to news of the delays to the dozens of vehicles’ repairs: “The lack of police resources is a serious issue and I am highly concerned that dozens of police vehicles appear to have been out of operation for the past several months when they are desperately needed in many areas across this province.
“I will be writing to the national minister of police so that this can be urgently investigated. The allegations about non-payment and irregular tender procedures must be investigated as our police need their vehicles to keep our communities safe.”
Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana told the Cape Argus: “These delays do not relate to the failure by the police in paying the supplier. Rather, the police suffer as a result of internal disagreements within the supplier itself with its subcontractors.
“The police are currently taking the matter up within its internal structures to review its relationship with the company responsible for these problems.
“The police are doing everything possible to ensure the problem is alleviated and that in the process, service delivery remains unhampered by these unfortunate circumstances,” said Kinana.