Cape Town - The Western Cape SAPS has admitted to having experienced challenges with its radio communications system resulting in officers using their own devices. This comes after Action Society (AS) accused the provincial police force of using an outdated radio system that was issued in the 1980s.
Ian Cameron, director of community safety at AS, said the SAPS communication system was on the brink of critical collapse and that SAPS management in the Western Cape hasn’t done anything to tackle the communication system crisis that is leaving critical first response units in SAPS.
“Like the anti-gang units and the Flying Squad, exposed and isolated in their efforts to protect the vulnerable in the raging gang wars in the province. The main reason for the collapse, Action Society has learnt, is the fact that the radios that SAPS members are using were issued in the 1980s, and while some of them have been refurbished over the years, the system is collapsing completely,” said Cameron.
He said in 2009, Gauteng was issued new trunking radios for the Tetra system, giving them immense communication capabilities.
“The same cannot be said for the Western Cape. Fourteen years have passed, and the police officers that have to go out in the most dangerous areas in South Africa are doing so without communication because their system is stuck in the ’80s.”
“With the return of load shedding after the World Cup, the situation has deteriorated even further. Areas like Khayelitsha already have bad cellphone signals. During load shedding, with the cell towers off, communications go dark. Imagine finding yourself in a volatile situation where bullets are flying around you and you are unable to call for help because your radio is a dead brick and your phone has no signal. Would you be willing to work in those conditions?”
A police officer who wished to remain anonymous has confirmed that their jobs have been made difficult as a result of the SAPS falling communication system. He said at times they have to use their personal cellphones and data.
“It’s an issue that we have been raising for years, and it gets exhausting to repeat the same things over and over again. Management is aware of this, and they seem to not care.
“For example, if we are chasing a suspect, we can’t alert another police member nearby to inform them to look out for a certain car with this registration, and so on.
“Members can’t express themselves freely, as sometimes we fear being victimised by our commanders. This challenge has impacted many of us from doing our jobs.”
JP Smith, Mayco Member for Safety and Security, City of Cape Town, said they are aware of the issue, that they are willing to assist the police, and that they have offered to assist.
“We know of this challenge, and it is a serious problem, and in the city we have offered to assist in any possible way where we can, as our radio channels and communication system are working perfectly fine. Our doors are open to assist where we can,” said Smith.
After weeks of trying to get a response from the SAPS, the Cape Argus was first referred by Bheki Cele’s spokesperson to the provincial police, who in turn took two weeks to respond to the paper’s question.
In response, Cele’s spokesperson said: “Kindly be advised that the matter cited in your inquiry is receiving urgent attention from police management, and at this stage, the details of this intervention cannot be discussed in the public domain.”
Colonel Andrè Traut, SAPS Provincial Commander media communication, said: “In response, kindly be advised that the matter cited in your inquiry is receiving urgent attention from police management, and at this stage the details of this intervention cannot be discussed in the public domain.”