Pretoria - The lack of holding cells at Lyttelton police station for the past seven years continues to pose the risk of detainees escaping from lawful custody.
This is according to MEC of Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko, who was replying to questions from DA Gauteng MPL Crezane Bosch regarding the station having no holding cells and its impact on the ability of the station to perform its duties.
Mazibuko said the situation at the station had forced police officers to transport detainees to the Sunnyside SAPS holding cells.
She said there was an increased risk of detainees escaping from lawful custody while being transported to Sunnyside.
She also said that that transporting detainees was costly for the station because Sunnyside SAPS was located 20km from Lyttelton.
“Service delivery is hampered, as members are transporting and escorting detainees to Sunnyside SAPS,” Mazibuko said.
She gave her responses to the DA’s questions regarding the timeline for building holding cells at the police station last month.
This week, the DA expressed concern that suspects were kept inside a truck for hours because of a lack of holding cells at the station.
On Monday, Bosch said: “More than 50 suspects have been kept at the back of a police truck since this morning because of a lack of holding cells at Lyttelton police station in Centurion.”
She said the situation was unacceptable because it violated the suspects’ rights “as they were kept in a truck without food, water, sufficient ventilation, and access to ablution facilities”.
“These suspects were supposed to have appeared in court this morning (Monday) but were turned away due to an alleged outage at the court due to a substation that was flooded by heavy rains.
“The police officers on duty were struggling to find available cells at the nearby police stations to hold the suspects until their next scheduled appearance tomorrow (Tuesday), as other stations had no available capacity at their cells,” she said.
Mazibuko had said that the police station has been without holding cells for the past seven years.
She could not confirm a date for building the holding cells, saying the matter was prioritised by SAPS and reported to the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
Bosch said: “This is costing the station more money in terms of fuel costs in transporting the suspects and hampers police service delivery as they must escort the suspects instead of conducting visible policing.
“In addition, there is an increased risk of suspects escaping from lawful custody while being transported to Sunnyside SAPS.”
Bosch bemoaned the fact that the situation has not changed since her party’s oversight inspection in March.
“The building of holding cells at this police station can no longer be delayed without a proper action plan.
“The DA demands that MEC Mazibuko urgently engages the minister of Public Works and Infrastructure to prioritise the building of the holding cells at Lyttelton police station, to ensure that police service delivery continues without any further interruptions,” she said.