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In KwaZulu-Natal, one would assume that the motivation at a government level, due to the volatility of the province, would be to at least ensure SAPS vehicles are on the road. However, following the social unrest and looking at the preparedness of the SAPS, numerous South African Police Service (SAPS) Public Order Policing (POP) Units appear to be in a concerning state.
Police Minister, Bheki Cele recently revealed shocking figures about the SAPS POP unit during questioning from Andrew Whitfield of the Democratic Alliance (DA). The Police Minister’s response shows that 35% of all POP vehicles are off the road for various repairs. Yet, Whitfield noted that KwaZulu-Natal is the province with the highest number of non-operational vehicles with more than 50% of the POP unit fleet currently in the workshop.
“This situation explains the SAPS’ inability to respond adequately to the violent unrest which gripped KZN last year and confirms the findings of the report of the Expert Panel into the violence in KZN in July 2021,” he said.
Budget constraints have also resulted in the POP unit not having sufficient tools of the trade, such as rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. The DA further said that “We were informed that there is only one water cannon per province available to the POP. A water cannon from another province had to be brought in to support operations in KZN. This state of affairs is clearly unsustainable in a country with such an active protest history. Whether the police are managing their budget efficiently or not was contested.”
POP Units with 50% or more non-operational vehicles:
|KwaZulu-Natal||Limpopo||Eastern Cape||Free State|
|Ulundi: 61%||Giyani: 75%||Mthatha: 57%||Seolsesha: 56%|
|Pietermaritzburg: 59%||Modimolle: 69%||East London: 50%|
|Newcastle: 55%||Polokwane: 60%|
Zooming into Newcastle, Cele’s response indicated that the local POP unit holds 29 vehicles. However, 16 of these are in the workshop, leaving only 13 vehicles available in times of crisis.
The station was asked how they were working around the issue of most of its POP fleet being in for repairs? What plans were in place for times of crisis, such as the July 2021 unrest? And, how was the bulk of the POP vehicles being in for repair impacting the fight against crime in Newcastle?
In response, the always helpful Newcastle SAPS spokesperson, Lizzy Arumugam explained that the Provincial POP Department would have to provide clarity on the matter. Unfortunately, to date, the unit has not responded to the questions.
As a substantial amount of damage was caused in the Newcastle area during the July 2021 unrest, we hope to update you soon on these developments? But, in the meantime, what are your thoughts on the matter?
Share your views in the comment section below.
To view Police Minister Bheki Cele’s full response to the parliamentary question around the POP Unit’s vehicle situation, click here.