10 February 2013

South Africa: Public Works Letting Down Our Police Service

press release

The Department of Public Works has left police barracks in the Durban area literally to rot. It appears the Department is more concerned with spending hundreds of millions of rands on ministerial mansions than looking after buildings that house our police officers.

The Department must brief the Portfolio Committee on Public Works on its plans to ensure that its focus this year will be on maintenance of public service structures, and not expensive security upgrades.

On Friday, I visited three police barracks across Durban - Natalia Court Barracks, Excelsior Court Barracks and Berea CID. Excelsior and Natalia are supposed to house policemen and women, while the Berea CID houses the detective branch.

According to a reply to a parliamentary question received last year, Natalia Court Barracks was to undergo maintenance, but this has yet to happen as there are insufficient funds. Instead, police officers must live with raw sewage seeping through rusted and broken down pipes.

Excelsior Court (photo 1; photo 2) no longer houses SAPS members and is now illegally occupied by drug dealers and prostitutes. This building was declared a health and safety hazard last year. It could easily house at least 100 families but is now empty of SAPS members because of the Public Works Department's inability to fulfil its mandate.

The Berea CID, which houses the detective branch, has a leaking roof and rotting carpets as a result of damp. The building is also infested with bird lice from the pigeons that nest in the roof.

These barracks are not the only public buildings in the country in such a shocking condition. Other police stations, like the one in Carletonville, the old Marshall Street barracks in Johannesburg and the old Home Affairs building in Randfontein, have been largely demolished by vandals and are now completely uninhabitable.

The core mandate of the Department of Public Works is the proper management, maintenance and restoration of the thousands of state properties in its care. Buildings like the ones I visited confirm that the Department is failing to deliver on this mandate.

I will be writing to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works to ask that Minister Thulas Nxesi present a plan on how the Department will address the shocking conditions of police barracks across the country.

Creating better living conditions for our policemen and women is essential to improving the morale of our police service. They should be treated with dignity, not left to live in squalor.

Anchen Dreyer, Shadow Minister of Public Works

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