South Africa: Six Years to Renovate a Police Station and It Still Isn't Finished

Two construction companies have left the job incomplete

  • The first R7-million tender to renovate Indwe police station was awarded in 2017.
  • What was meant to be a 18-month project has taken more than six years.
  • Two construction companies hired left the job incomplete and it looks like a third company will now be hired.
  • The community has resorted to self-policing and community justice because of greatly reduced police capacity.

Renovations to the police station in Indwe, Eastern Cape, started six years ago and were meant to take 18 months, but the job is still unfinished.

Two construction companies hired to renovate the Indwe police station left before completing the job. In both cases their contracts were withdrawn due to non-compliance, according to the Eastern Cape police spokesperson Thembinkosi Kinana.

"I am sorry we are not at liberty to disclose the amounts as well as the names of the contractors as there are still processes underway to investigate these matters," he said.

However, at a public meeting held at Indwe community hall on 22 February, Chris Hani District Commissioner Major General Rudolph Adolph revealed that a tender of R7-million had been issued to Magubane Plant and Construction in 2017. He said the company had abandoned the project and the matter is in court.

GroundUp confirmed the company's appointment but could get no further comment.

Community leader Thabo Khethi said the second construction company was hired in 2019 and given a tender of R42-million, but it abandoned the project in 2020. We could not independently confirm this.

Community policing forum chairperson Rebecca Sondarha said, "Nothing was discussed with us. We just saw construction companies come and go, and no explanation was given. Even before they demolished the old holding cells, we were not told, and I have been the chairperson for 15 years."

"There are cases that we don't bother reporting to police because we know there's nothing these police can do due to lack of capacity. Cases such as cellphone theft are handled by community members," she said.

"We only have four police officers and most of the time you will find only two officers working per shift. A police station with holding cells is in Dordrecht, more than 40km away, or Queenstown which is more than an hour's drive.

"We have a lack of police vans. Most of the time only one van is working. If that van transports a suspect to Queenstown for stealing a cellphone that means the whole town will be left with no police vans and one officer. Because of that, we resorted to handling the small cases ourselves as a community. Each street has a leader that deals with small crimes," she said.

Suspects are subjected to community courts and rough justice.

At night the police station is inaccessible, according to Khethi and Sondarha.

"When the community catches a criminal at night they are forced to take them to Dordrecht or wait with the suspect until the Indwe police station opens in the morning," said Khethi. "Now imagine having to pay money to hire transport to take a suspect to Dordrecht, and again in the morning you must be there for the case. SAPS is failing us."

But Kinana said the station is open 24 hours a day. "If some of the gates happen to close, it is solely for security reasons," he said.

He said construction work at the station is expected to continue soon, once the paperwork on a new contract is finalised.

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