Stock photo of OR Tambo International Airport.

Johannesburg - About 40 Ekurhuleni metro police officers based at OR Tambo International were evicted and locked out of the airport facility office on Friday after failing to pay rent for more than a year.

It is understood that the decision came after the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) issued a final notice to Ekurhuleni council to pay its bill for the use of the space by its officers within seven days, which lapsed yesterday.

The embarrassing scene left some metro cops based at the airport, for operations including traffic management, law enforcement and crime prevention, seething.

According to Acsa, the lockout was as a result of the failure by the Ekurhuleni council to pay the rent for months. This was despite their having repeatedly been sent notification that they were in arrears.

Acsa spokeswoman Unathi Batyashe-Fillis said the decision to evict the metro cops had not been taken overnight.

“It is an unfortunate decision that we had to take because they are mandated by the government and the National Key Point Act to operate from here,” she said.

“But we treat Ekurhuleni metro like any other organisation by charging them rent to occupy the space at the airport.

“We have been sending them invoices since December last year, and our finance department has been communicating with the metro properly on this.”

Batyashe-Fillis refused to reveal by how much the metro was in arrears, saying this was confidential.

Yesterday several Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD) officers told the Saturday Star how embarrassed they were, as Acsa officials locked them out their office in front of international visitors.

One officer claimed that the decision to kick them out of the airport because of a failure to pay rent could mean that some law enforcement at the facility would be compromised. “We now have to do everything from our cars,” the officer said.

Another officer said people using the airport who wanted to lay complaints with the cops might now struggle to find them after the eviction. “The public will have to go in search for us in the streets.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, EMPD spokesman Vusi Mabanga referred questions to council spokesman Zweli Dlamini who could not be reached at the time of going to print.

Saturday Star