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Shortage of police vehicles is ongoing and hampering crime-fighting efforts – expert

In May 2023, KZN police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi handed over a total of 188 vehicles which include mobile Community Service Centres, tow trucks and motorbikes to stations and units at a parade. Picture: Supplied

In May 2023, KZN police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi handed over a total of 188 vehicles which include mobile Community Service Centres, tow trucks and motorbikes to stations and units at a parade. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 5, 2023


Durban — Police stations around KwaZulu-Natal are plagued by a shortage of vehicles, which is getting in the way of crime fighting efforts in the province.

Opposition parties in the KZN Legislature have highlighted these reports with concern. The shortage not only affects visibility in communities, but could also possibly prevent the police from responding to life-threatening incidents.

Crime analyst and senior researcher from the Institute for Security Studies, Dr Johan Burger, said the problem was not new and had been around for years. Burger said members of the public had complained many times over the lack of availability of vehicles when they reported crimes.

“While the issue has been long-standing, it shows police management is failing at solving the matter, possibly hindering police efforts in fighting crime,” Burger said.

IFP MPL and spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison, Blessed Gwala, said the role of police officers in any society was worthy of appreciation, however, the government seemed to be failing them. Gwala said vehicle shortages could also lead to dissatisfaction in communities, as they resulted in the police struggling to reach crime scenes, and arriving late.

Gwala, said the shortage of police vehicles was a serious concern, and the police must be provided with the necessary support.

“Police need state-of-the-art equipment to perform their duties diligently and effectively to combat crime. Combining prevention, deterrence and enforcement will give the brave women and men in our police service and criminal justice system the tools they need to keep people out of trouble, and to punish those who persist in breaking the law,” Gwala said.

He added that during the 2022 KZN Legislature's Police Stations' Functionality Monitoring Programme, the shocking state of police stations was revealed. Some SAPS stations in KZN did not have any vehicles or police officers to respond to crime.

“Such issues deserve urgent attention from the relevant authorities. The government must ensure that the police receive fully operational vehicles, as well as establish a means of intervention to address challenges, such as police vehicles taking longer than expected in police garages for repairs,” he said.

Burger said it was worrisome that a lot of vehicles of important units in the SAPS were out of action, not only in KZN, but the entire country.

“There has not been any research on the impact, but it must have an impact on their ability to respond if only half of their vehicle fleet is operational. Keeping in mind that the country’s crime levels have been increasing yearly for the past 10 years, especially in terms of murder and aggravated robbery, this is a serious concern,” Burger said.

It was revealed that the province is faced with a two-fold problem of not having enough capacity to buy new vehicles, and a staff shortage to do repairs and maintenance at garages.

A police source at a station in the Durban district, who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity, attested to the IFP’s claims.

They expressed their dissatisfaction with SAPS management’s failure to address the shortage of resources, saying this restricted officers.

“We always struggle just to get vehicles, off-road vehicles in particular, to attend to complaints in certain areas that are difficult to access with sedan or hatchback cars. This undermines the response capacity of police and weakens the detectives’ investigative process,” said a concerned officer.

Apparently before Covid-19, officials would visit the 184 police stations in KZN to assess their transport needs.

DA MPL Sharon Hoosen said people usually focused on crime statistics but forgot that for police to combat crime they needed the tools to be ready.

“Our SAPS is just not equipped to deal with the crime pandemic that is plaguing our city and province. Buildings that are inadequate. Not nearly enough vehicles. No contract for parts for the police vehicles, meaning they spend weeks in the garage as they try to source quotes to get parts.It is clear there are lapses in the operation of management, even though there is not enough capacity,” Hoosen said.

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