Fight against crime must go on despite poor state of SAPS buildings

The national SAPS headquarters in Pretorius Street in Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Naudé/Independent Newspapers

The national SAPS headquarters in Pretorius Street in Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Naudé/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 12, 2024


The deplorable state of buildings housing members of the SAPS across the province and the country has been a concern of unions and security stakeholders for years.

Police Minister Bheki Cele told parliament’s portfolio committee on police last week that he had been working from home for the past four years owing to the dire state of the Telkom Towers building, where the SAPS has its Pretoria headquarters.

His comments came after staff were last week evacuated by labour inspectors from Telkom Towers, which Cele has nicknamed “Terrible Towers”, after it was declared uninhabitable.

The Department of Public Works has as a result launched an internal investigation into the mismanagement of the Telkom Towers complex, as well as other properties owned by the department in Pretoria’s city centre.

While the inspection that led to the evacuation of the building was carried out by labour department officials, police management and the Solidarity trade union, the South African Policing Union said the state of the building was nothing surprising or new to them.

Lesiba Thobakgale, Sapu’s national spokesperson, said the union was extremely concerned about the state of most of the buildings occupied by SAPS members.

He said that in 2022 there had been an issue with water and electricity at the SAPS’s Wachthuis building. Sapu reported the matter to the Department of Employment and Labour and had it shut down.

Issues with Telkom Towers were picked up last year. These were reported to the Department of Police and brought to the attention of the national police commissioner. However, nothing was done, which led to the push for the department to close it down.

“It is not just those buildings – it goes for most of the police stations across all the provinces. You will find that the buildings are not suitable for our members to work in. Imagine working in a place like Telkom Towers, where there is no ventilation, and the same goes for other police stations. People are housed in containers where the toilets are not working, along with everything else, but members must keep working.

“That is why we have resolved as an organisation to report all those buildings that are unsafe and have them closed down, because our members have the right to work in a safe environment,” Thobakgale added.

Despite concerns about making employees work in containers, forensic investigator Calvin Rafadi said having SAPS members working from home, especially following the evacuation, was not something the country could afford given its high levels of crime.

Rafadi said SAPS members working from home may not be as effective as those in the workplace, while others might end up citing load shedding and wi-fi or data problems as excuses for not attending Zoom and Teams meetings.

Given the need for police officers to keep up their important fight against crime, Rafadi suggested the police use temporary containers as offices, making sure they are boosted by standby generators.

“The reality is that crime is a huge problem in this country, so we need the police to respond to it despite the challenges. Although far from ideal, they should consider putting containers in townships so that informers and communities can easily go to police officers to give them information to help them tackle crime.”