The Department of Public works admits that it lacks capacity and is facing serious irregularities with many of its leases.

Durban - The SAPS stolen vehicle recovery unit in Port Shepstone has proved to be indestructible when it comes to fighting crime. For the past month the police officers have worked from their cars after they were locked out of their Marburg police station when the Department of Public Works failed to renew the lease of their privately owned building, which houses the team.

This meant that the police officers were forced to solve cases without access to case dockets, which were locked in the building.

Property owner Sean Naidoo said he had to move the police unit of about 30 officers from his property after Public Works ignored his plea to renew the lease agreement.

It was the second time the officers have been kicked out of their offices.

The first incident was in December when the department failed to pay the monthly rent of R1.3 million. The officers said that when Naidoo locked them out again on June 1 they had to look for other alternatives to do their work.

“We came to work on Friday, to find a security guard in front of the main entrance which had a chain and a huge padlock on it.

“We were confused and called head office to find out what was happening and we were told that the matter would be solved soon,” said a policeman who wanted to remain anonymous.

Finally, the police offers were told on Thursday that by Saturday, they could go back to their desks.

The officer said Naidoo explained the problem to them.

“Instead of going home we decided to get on with it in our cars and track stolen vehicles despite our files with information about cases being locked inside the building,” said the officer.

The unit operates between Port Shepstone and Umzimkhulu. Despite the challenging circumstances, they were able to recover a number of stolen vehicles.

“Since our files were not with us, we used bits and pieces of information that we had. We were lucky that some of the registration numbers of vehicles we were tracking were written on pieces of paper which were in our vehicles,” said the police officer.

Another officer said they did not regard themselves as heroes, but just ordinary police officers trying to do their jobs diligently.

Naidoo said the five-year lease expired in December last year.

He said this was the same month when the department defaulted on paying rent.

“We kept reminding them that they should renew the lease, which they ignored. All I wanted was for them to give us a letter stating when they would renew the lease.”

Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said the police officers were moved to the Port Shepstone police station for the month. - The Mercury