Cape Town - Officers stationed at police stations across the city, and living in police barracks are facing eviction because they can’t afford the steep rent increases.
Their families are worried that if the officers return to normal housing, they may be targeted by criminals. They accused police management of being uncaring.
Police and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) have apparently imposed rent increases of up to 1 000% on officers living in this accommodation, Luyanda Mtamzeli, a community organiser at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said.
The police officers were allegedly requested to vacate official housing provided by SAPS by December 31, or be subjected to a rental increase. Those who aren’t able to pay the inflated rental amounts must urgently find alternative housing or face homelessness.
Some of the affected family members marched to the SAPS provincial head offices in Green Point, where they told the management of their plight.
A wife of one of the officers facing eviction said they had been living in the barracks for four years.
She said her husband worked in the Anti-Gang Unit (AGU), and was afraid that after eviction, they might go back to the townships, where they have experienced alleged threats, and guns pointed at them several times, "because criminals wanted the state's firearms".
She said the affected SAPS members were moved to the safe-houses as a result of targeted attacks or threats on their lives, experienced in the performance of their duties fighting crime, and serving and protecting their communities.
"Some of the members have survived assassination attempts, while others have lost family members in co-ordinated attacks on their families, becoming collateral damage in the war against crime that these members fight daily employed by the service," she said.
SA Police and Allied Workers Union (Sapawu) president Bonga Makuliwe said the SAPS management needed to reconsider its eviction decision, because those members were at the barracks for different reasons.
Makuliwe said some members were victims of crime and it was still not safe for them to go back to the same locations were they were victims.
"SAPS never learned from when Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear was murdered in Bishop Lavis after SAPS withdrew his protection," Makuliwe said.
He believed it was clear that the SAPS management wanted to collapse the country, because those members were protecting the streets and communities.
Luyanda Mtamzeli, a community organiser at Ndifuna Ukwazi, said: “It is disappointing that the Minister of Public Work and Infrastructure Patricia De Lille has continuously claimed to advocate against spatial planning injustice and unlawful eviction but in contradiction to that claim, her department and SAPS are imposing astronomical rentals on SAPS members."
Mtamzeli called on De Lille to practise what she preaches and intervene in the matter.
He said the rental increases come on the back of recommendations from the DPWI – which owns the well-located official housing in and around the inner city – to obtain “market-related” rentals.
"In terms of these recommendations, SAPS members living in well-located safehouses have faced massive market related rental increases," he said.
DPWI acting director, Imtiaz Fazel, denied that the department was involved in the eviction of SAPS members in those state houses.
Fazel said the DPWI is the custodian of the subject properties, however, the properties were allocated to the SAPS, whereby the management of the properties resides with the SAPS.
"The management entails the allocation of properties to its officials in line with SAPS’ own internal processes and policies for the purposes of official accommodation," Fazel said.
He said in 2018 and 2019 respectively, SAPS approached and requested the Department to commission Comparable Market Analysis (CMA’s) on a number of properties occupied by their officials for housing purposes.
"The department complied and submitted the comparable market analysis reports. If SAPS members were notified of rental increases then this was effected by SAPS management on their own volition and as part of their own internal processes," Fazel said.
Police spokesperson Andrè Traut said: "What you are referring to is our Housing Policy, which is a transparent and fair process where tenants of police accommodation are rotated on a three year basis."
Traut said that was, however, an internal affair and is treated as such.
"Our members are acquainted with the policy and grievances in this regard will only be facilitated if the correct channels are followed," he said.