Cape Town - Police officers facing eviction from their barracks at Cape Town central police station on Saturday accused their managers of being uncaring and placing their lives at risk.
Almost 30 male and female police officers living in single rooms on the second floor above the police station on Buitenkant Street had been ordered to leave the building by on Saturday.
They were told their rooms would be converted into administration offices. But they refused to vacate the building as they have not secured alternative accommodation.
They showed Weekend Argus their rooms and living conditions on Saturday. Most of them did not want their names or faces published in the newspaper for “fear of intimidation”.
The officers said they also feared for their lives as the only places they could afford to move to were townships, where criminals target police officers for their weapons.
All the officers are from outside Cape Town and mostly from other provinces. They are deployed at police stations across the city.
One officer from Limpopo, who has lived at the barracks for the past 10 years, said he would prefer to be transferred to his hometown so that he could be with his wife and children.
“I have applied for a transfer but we are told that we need to wait until somebody else from our province can replace us in Cape Town. If I was in Limpopo I could walk to work. It would be better for me to be with my wife and children,” he said.
A police officer from the Eastern Cape said he had planned to move to Khayelitsha instead of being evicted, but those plans changed swiftly.
“I was going to move out of the barracks to Khayelitsha. My colleague moved there a month ago. Two days after he moved there his place was broken into and his uniform was stolen. Luckily his firearm was not there,” he said.
“Criminals want our firearms. We are not safe in townships. And our bosses do not care about our safety. If we move out of the barracks we will be in danger. It looks like building offices are more important than our lives.”
An officer from Kwa-Zulu Natal who has lived in the barracks since 2011 said one of his colleagues had also “been chased in the day by skollies (gangsters)”.
“They wanted his gun. He was in uniform. The public saw it and they don’t care,” said the officer.
He said their run-down toilets were not regularly cleaned. Not all the showers in both the male and female bathrooms worked and the paint was peeling from the ceiling. The barracks were neglected.
The KwaZulu Natal officer added: “They are not cleaning our floor because they want us out. They also limit our electricity use.
“We have looked for other places but it is too expensive. Rent is very high in Cape Town. We can only afford places in townships but we are targeted there.”
After tax deductions, the officers earn between R5 000 to R7 600 a month. They pay R1 400 rent a month for the rooms.
Police officer Vanessa Elias from Worcester said she would also prefer being stationed in her home town. She has lived in the barracks for a decade and is based at Cape Town central station.
“I’m horrified about our situation. It has affected my work.”
Elias said she had no family in Cape Town and was scared to be seen in uniform when not on duty.
“Our jobs are so dangerous. I was robbed in Kraaifontein. Two guys ripped off my badge. I fought with them. If we are at home at least we have our family around us for support.”
Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana could not confirm when the officers would be evicted. A “thorough process of consultation was followed by management with members concerned”.
“The whole issue of the accommodation was discussed with them earlier, to enable those affected to seek alternative accommodation. The department’s doors are always open to those who may not have understood the processes.”