Police across Swaziland (eSwatini) have to hitch rides from civilians to get to crime scenes or perform other duties because the kingdom is broke and cannot pay for fuel or repairs to vehicles.
Swazi Police spokesperson Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said 'a majority' of police stations across the kingdom were affected by the shortage.
The situation is not new as there have been similar reports over the past two years.
Vilakati was responding to a newspaper report that there was only one vehicle available to police in Mankayane and surrounding areas and 'police officers are reportedly forced to walk or hitchhike to crime and accident scenes because government has challenges with fuel or vehicle repairs'.
The only vehicle available was shared among the General Patrol, Crime Investigation Department (CID) and the Traffic Department. Traffic officers were reportedly using their personal vehicles to mount roadblocks.
The Times of eSwatini reported, according to a source, 'There had been three cases of armed robberies where police were contacted but could not make it on time due to the fact that there was a shortage of motor vehicles.' This gave the robbers ample time to leave the crime scene before the police could apprehend them.
Vilakati said, 'The situation has become even worse as it has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic to a point that we couldn't service even the few cars that we have and on top of that the issue of fuel shortage also contributed dearly.'
The problem is not a new one. In July 2019 it was reported police at Ngudzeni had been without vehicles for a year. Officers were forced to either walk to crime scenes or to wait for a day or so in order to get the one vehicle that was allocated to the nearby Dumako Police Post.
Vilakati said at the time the police force faced challenges which she attributed to the 'government's obtaining economic crisis'.
In August 2018 it was reported police in the Siteki area were forced to walk or hitch-hike to crime and accident scenes because the government had not paid for fuel or vehicle repairs. Traffic officers used their personal vehicles to mount road blocks.
In May 2018 it was reported that Swaziland was so short of resources that police were unable to secure voter registration centres in the runup to national elections and do their routine work at the same time. Police officers were said to have been left stranded at registration centres in the evenings because there were no vehicles available to take them home.
Police were unable to respond when a five-year-old was abducted and raped because they were on election duty, according to the Swazi Observer at the time. It said a toddler was with her mother at Mahlalini, an area in the outskirts of Nhlangano, when a man grabbed her and disappeared into a thicket where he raped her.