Durban - Almost three out of every 10 police officers in KwaZulu-Natal are unable to take part in car chases to catch criminals because they do not have a valid driving licence.
This was revealed by MEC for Transport Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, in a parliamentary response to questions posed by the DA.
The response paints a grim picture – 6 693 of the province’s 21 525 police officers are carrying out law enforcement without driving licences.
The MEC’s response showed that the number of police officials who did not have driving licences included those of high rank, such as colonels and majors.
Mchunu provided the following figures:
- Four in every 10 colonels are not authorised to drive on South African roads (103 out of 249 colonels do not have a driving licence).
- Three in every 10 majors and lieutenant-generals are not authorised to drive on roads (256 out of 813 of them do not have driving licences).
- A third of lieutenants and captains are not authorised to drive on roads (888 out of 2 640 do not have a driving licence).
- Three in every 10 warrant officers are not authorised to drive on roads (1 920 out of 6 083 warrant officers do not have a driving licence).
- Nearly three in 10 sergeants are not authorised to drive on roads (614 out of 2 123 with this rank do not have driving licences).
- Three in 10 constables are not authorised to drive on roads (2 896 out of 9 547 constables do not have a driving licence).
Provincial transport spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, said the department would respond once the figures had been updated at the end of this month.
The figure was accurate until November 30 last year.
Violence monitor and researcher, Mary de Haas, said the updated figure would not be too different.
She called on police to explain why they were recruiting so many people without licences and said it was a concern.
She said the number of constables who were recruited without licences was “ridiculous”.
“That suggests that they have been recruiting young people without driver’s licences. We have thousands of matriculants who have licences who would want to be police officers,” she said.
De Haas suggested that having a driving licence for a minimum of six months should be a requirement for recruitment.
She said the figure for senior ranking police officers without driving licences was alarming, and she questioned how the officers had been promoted in the first place.
“I could understand if it was a small number, but 30 percent (referring to the total of 6 693) seems quite excessive. It must surely impact on service. What happens when people with licences are off duty, or if they are sick? Who will respond to the call?” she asked.
De Haas added that just yesterday, she received a call informing her that police had taken more than three hours to report to a woman who had been raped in a rural area. She said not having a driver, or a shortage of working vehicles, could be a reason.
She said bicycles in urban areas and horses in rural areas could be viable options of helping to increase the effectiveness of the police force.
The DA’s Sizwe Mchunu said that while his party acknowledged that not all functions within the South African Police Service necessarily required staff to have a driving licence, it was a valuable life skill.
“The perception among South Africans is that police officers would have driving licences,” he said.
The leader said it was a major concern that “on the ground” policemen such as constables and sergeants who were usually involved in arrests and crime scenes were causing an unnecessary burden of needing to be transported by other police officers.
Mchunu said he would write to the provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, seeking answers and asking about steps the police had taken to address the problem.
Police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said police had “sufficient capacity in terms of official drivers”.
The issue of driving licences, he said, “has no negative influence on the efficiency of our workforce”.
He felt there was a sufficient pool of drivers daily on each shift. - Daily News