Western Cape Police Station Upgrades & Maintenance: SAPS briefing

Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport (WCPP)

07 October 2022
Chairperson: Mr G Bosman (DA)
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Meeting Summary

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In a hybrid briefing in the presence of the SAPS National Commissioner and Western Cape MEC for Police Oversight, the upgrading plans for four police stations in Bitou, Mossel Bay, Kleinvlei and Elands Bay were outlined.

During cluster visits to towns and districts across the Western Cape, the Committee had identified four police stations as critically dysfunctional and not fit for human occupation. Members had raised concerns about the image and public perception of the SAPS and the inability to provide a space where those communities could be served in a dignified manner. SAPS resolved to replace the prefabricated structures at the four identified police stations with newly built structures. Plans are in place to start construction within 2024/25 with completion dates earmarked for 2027/28.

The execution of maintenance work proved problematic for SAPS due to outdated lease agreements and its threshold of R100 000 for general maintenance work. The situation has improved since the increased threshold to R1 million and the development of a better working relationship with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI).

Committee Members asked about interim measures to deal with people having to queue outside in the rain to visit the Kleinvlei police station and fixing the holes in floors at another station; the lack of computers; poor training of detectives and the release of suspects for a Paarl child murder. They were pleased to hear about the weekly meetings to monitor kidnappings and abductions. They asked how many people had been arrested and convicted. A strong message was needed to stop this type of crime.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the Committee was honoured by the presence of SAPS senior leadership, led by the National Commissioner. The meeting was to address critical concerns about policing in the Western Cape. Community policing should follow a societal approach because it is everyone’s responsibility. Western Cape MEC Reagan Allan was on his first visit to the Committee in his new capacity as an accounting officer. He previously chaired this Committee and understood the many challenges communities face.

Western Cape Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety, Mr Reagan Allan, said that he felt at home and was delighted by the continuous working relationship with the National Commissioner and his team. He had observed how present and past members of the Committee served diligently as a multi-party committee towards creating safer communities. Members of the team accompanying the MEC introduced themselves.

Lt General Fannie Masemola, SAPS National Commissioner, apologised on behalf of the Provincial Commissioner who was on vacation. Members of the team accompanying the National Commissioner introduced themselves.

The Chairperson called on the two Rhodes High School learners, who were job shadowing him, to introduce themselves.

The first student, Willem, a grade nine learner, was interested in becoming President of the country.

The second student, Karabo, wanted to see how the work of Parliament is done.

The Western Cape Provincial Police officers who had subsequently joined the meeting, introduced themselves at the Chairperson’s request.

The Chairperson provide the rationale for the twofold briefing request. Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport; Premier and Constitutional Affairs; Education; Social Development; and Health Committees since the start of the Sixth Parliament in 2019, have made cluster oversight visits to observe service delivery in different towns and districts in the Western Cape. Engagement with SAPS at police stations formed part of the visits for an understanding of the nature of problems in communities and innovative measures to address these problems. Maintenance of police stations was identified as a critical area of concern and specifically the four dysfunctional spaces which were identified as not being fit for purpose. For example, the Kleinvlei community felt the police station in its area was inadequate and unable to provide support.

The first request was for a briefing on maintenance and upgrades to police stations to understand upgrading plans for the four dysfunctional police stations and the process of maintaining police stations. Station commanders believed that maintenance was the responsibility of the DPWI, while the DPWI indicated that maintenance was now included in the police station budget. Workmanship was found to be of poor quality in some cases such as Plettenberg Bay police station built in 2013 which did not have functional toilets in the detention facilities.

The second request was about recent events that had been gripping the province. The Committee asked for an update on plans to build capacity to conduct investigations that could lead to convictions specifically on cases of child murders and extortion and kidnappings spiked in the Western Cape.

SAPS National Commissioner opening remarks
Lt General Fannie Masemola, SAPS National Commissioner, replied that the SAPS had prepared a briefing on capital works projects per the request. He would respond to the matter of child murders, although it did not form part of the directive. Cases of crime against women and children are being investigated by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit. The unit had been most successful in convictions countrywide. The wave of kidnappings for ransom had been gripping the country at large. SAPS seemed to be getting it right up-country although it appeared to still be a problem in the Western Cape. The same strategy of having national and provincial integrated teams up-country would be applied together with other law enforcement agencies in the Western Cape including the City of Cape Town. He was hoping to achieve similar results in the Western Cape.

He stated that the four police stations highlighted by the Committee were a priority. Upgrading of police stations had been inhibited by the fact that some are owned by municipalities. SAPS is not in a position to maintain buildings that it does not own. He called on the Committee for assistance in selling municipal-owned buildings to the Police or providing alternative land for construction of police stations.

SAPS Capital Works projects for Western Cape
Major General Sithole, SAPS Head: Security Management, presented an overview of the status of the SAPS Capital Works and Planned Maintenance priorities for execution by SAPS in collaboration with DPWI. This Committee had identified four police stations that required urgent intervention: Kwanokuthula and Kwanongaba police stations, leased from Bitou and Mossel Bay municipalities respectively and the Kleinvlei and Elands Bay police stations which are state-owned properties. The four police stations were housed either in prefabricated structures or containers which were all found to be in a dilapidated state. The status of construction plans to replace the four dysfunctional police stations was presented:

Kwanokuthula
Site clearance earmarked for completion during the 2024/25 financial year.
Planning and design to be completed during 2025/26
Construction expected to be completed during 2027/28.

Kleinvlei
Site clearance earmarked for completion by 31 March 2025
Planning and design to be registered for completion during 2025/26
Construction registered for a contract period of two years.

Elands Bay
Site clearance earmarked for completion during 2024/25
Planning and design to be registered for completion during 2025/26
Construction registered for a contract period of two years.

Kwanongaba
Site clearance earmarked for completion during 2024/25
Planning and design earmarked for completion during 2025/26
Construction expected completion date scheduled for 31 March 2028.

The other capital works projects for the Western Cape and planned maintenance were each itemised (see document).

It was noted that Provincial Offices are authorised to undertake Day-to-Day Maintenance Projects up to R100 000 threshold. Currently, the threshold has been increased to R1 000 000. However, the scope of works is still under review by DPWI so as to include Minor Works.

Discussion
Mr F Christians (ACDP) agreed that the presentation was a comprehensive overview of operational matters. He was positive that progress would be made at the four police stations. Although plans were in place, he found it disheartening that people in Kleinvlei needed to stand outside in queues waiting to be attended to, even when it was raining. The conditions were not conducive both for the wonderful police officers working at the station and the public. He was concerned about the image and public perception of the SAPS due to the lack of space to provide a dignified service to the community. He asked what the SAPS was doing to change the image of the police. He was pleased about the weekly meetings to monitor kidnappings and abductions. He asked how many people had been arrested and convicted. A strong message was needed to stop this type of crime.

Mr C Fry (DA) sought clarity if the lease for Kwanokuthula police station was running concurrently with the plans to build until 2028. Why was the lessor not fixing the holes in the floor of the prefabricated structures? He was concerned that SAPS was waiting on funds to be made available to renovate the rooms unfit for human occupation. He drew attention to the Plettenberg Bay police station which was not yet accessible for people with disabilities and asked how many other police stations were not compliant. He noted that a large number of police stations were scheduled for burglar proofing. He asked if it was for upgrades or installation of new equipment.

Mr M Kama (ANC) expressed his frustration about the Kwanokuthula police station that would remain in a poor condition until 2028. There were only six holding cells between the Kwanokuthula and Knysna police stations. The lack of detention space posed a big challenge. Police officers were told to stop tracing operations because they would be unable to detain people they found. He asked SAPS to comment on this. He noted that no project had been earmarked for victim friendly facilities (VFFs) in the Western Cape. Did this mean every police station in the Western Cape had a VFF? He wanted to understand the mechanisms in place to monitor the implementation of projects by DPWI. An age analysis showed that the project at the Bellville police station had not been finalised after 15 years. Different dates have been earmarked for project completion at Elands Bay police station and he asked for the correct date for the project finalisation.

The Chairperson asked the MEC if a request for a parcel of land for the Kleinvlei police station had been received and what the status of the request was.

SAPS response
National Commissioner Lt Gen Masemola understood the plight of office space and space for the community at the Kleinvlei police station. He would direct his colleagues at Supply Chain Management to provide one or two prefabricated rooms to alleviate the need for office space and a waiting area for the community. The process of obtaining land for the construction of a police station was ongoing.

Maj Gen Sithole replied that leasing buildings from municipalities was challenging because some lease agreements date back to 1999. The condition of buildings has been deteriorating because municipalities were unwilling to spend money on maintenance. She undertook to prioritise the repairs of holes in the prefabricated structures and would call on the province for assistance. On access for people with disabilities, she replied that all devolved buildings had been made compliant by SAPS. She would communicate the status of non-devolved buildings in the Western Cape. In terms of the National Safety Strategy, new burglar bars are being installed in compliance with safety requirements to improve security at police stations. The construction of holding cells had been prioritised according to the Infrastructure Security Plan. Holding cells found to be unsuitable and closed down are being evaluated for reopening by engineers and architects. She confirmed that all police stations in the Western Cape complied with the requirement to provide a VFF. Elands Bay police station had been prioritised for upgrading to secure the premises while construction was taking place. Site clearance is in progress for all four identified police stations. Contractors had been appointed and projects have been earmarked for finalisation within two years from commencement.

The Acting Provincial Commissioner was certain that a large number of people were in custody for kidnapping and extortion, and a large number of cases were before the courts. He had difficulty providing specific numbers because the item did not form part of the directive.

Lt Gen Molefe Fani, Divisional Commissioner: Supply Chain Management, addressed concerns about the long queues and the image of SAPS at police stations. The design of police stations is being reviewed to ensure that operations run smoothly. The desegregation of functions is being considered based on the needs of the public. SAPS was engaging DPWI about model police station designs for future construction. Communication with DPWI had improved. Regular meetings took place in the past two months and regular feedback on project progress is provided to the principals of both entities. Engagements with relevant stakeholders were continually taking place to unblock the challenges hampering the required maintenance of non-devolved buildings. Progress had not been as fast as anticipated.

The National Commissioner said regular interactions among officials have been taking place since the appointment of the new DPWI Acting Director-General. He met with his counterpart a while ago with the view to unblocking problems. He was hopeful that the improved cooperation would yield results of better service delivery for communities.

MEC Allen was hopeful for a positive relationship with the Minister of Public Works, a resident of this province. He had followed up with SAPS and DPWI on the request for a land parcel in Kleinvlei and would provide a written update to the Committee.

Further questions
The Chairperson asked if the rental at Kwanokuthula police station was R564 per month or annum. It was understandable that some municipalities were not able to do maintenance, especially in Bitou, where money was a problem due to years of mismanagement. He was hopeful that land would be made available and would not become impossible due to the massive increase in land invasions in the province. It would be helpful to break ground sooner rather than later. He suggested that solar panels should be erected on vacant land.

He invited the National Commissioner to join him on a visit to Plettenberg Bay police station where the only brick and mortar buildings were the charge office and the station commander office. The mobile units had holes in the floor. He urged SAPS to pay urgent attention to this specific police station and work with the municipality and provincial government because it served a vast area. The statistics were quite impressive considering the working conditions at the police station.

The Chairperson asked if SAPS had been discussing an increase in the monthly rental of R564 of Kwanokuthula police station with DPWI. He wanted to understand the role of the Districts in monitoring the needs and processing maintenance requests from police stations. He was concerned about the release of two suspects involved in the murder of the four-year-old Paarl girl. It had been reported that the release was due to sloppy police work, creating a difficult position for the police officers at the station. Issues involving SAPS members at the Paarl police station seemed to remain unresolved.

Based on information gathered, very few detectives have completed either a basic or an advanced detective course. What was being done to build capacity at provincial and national levels?

He was grateful that SAPS had been working with the City of Cape Town on extortion cases. He was hopeful that the services of the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) Officers would be put to good use. He asked if cooperation with other law enforcement agencies led to cases that the NPA could take to court.

The Chairperson sought clarity if the R1 million delegated authority for the Provincial Commissioner was for station upgrades only.

Mr Fry found the inability of SAPS to find money for fixing holes in prefabricated structures unacceptable. He asked how SAPS was planning to remedy the IT situation where two people were required to share one computer. It was important to supply proper tools of trade to provide good service.

SAPS response
SAPS National Commissioner Masemola replied that he would make time to visit the Plettenberg Bay police station and would report back to the Committee thereafter. Leasing of buildings was problematic because the completion of lease agreements gets held up between municipalities and DPWI. SAPS was working on a maintenance project with DPWI for all police buildings.

He acknowledged that training of detectives had been held up during the two years of Covid-19. Training had since been prioritised and the backlog was a work in progress.

The Acting Provincial Commissioner replied that he had not been informed about the release of suspects involved in the murder of the four-year-old in Paarl and would follow up on the matter.

SAPS Security Management Head Sithole replied that the IT facility did not form part of the directive, but SAPS has an IT plan that would be shared with the Committee when requested.

National Commissioner Masemola replied that SAPS would be engaging with the property owner to put in better infrastructure at the police stations which reportedly have holes in the floor. Provincial Supply Chain Management would be requested to ascertain if temporary infrastructure could be built.

The Chairperson called on the MEC to proceed with his presentation on policing oversight.

MEC Allen asked if the item may stand over considering the time constraints.

The Chairperson tabled the proposal for the MEC’s presentation to stand over. He requested Members to submit resolutions online. The MEC was requested to comment on the holes in the floors at police stations.

MEC Allen replied that the position in terms of responsibility of provincial government had been clearly stated with national government. Contractors should be held liable. He undertook to brief the Committee about recently-built police stations. He thanked the National Commissioner and his team for taking the time to brief the Committee.

National Commissioner Masemola said it was the responsibility of SAPS to avail themselves. SAPS was open to suggestions and willing to cooperate with all spheres of government.

The Chairperson thanked the National Commissioner for entertaining the Committee’s urgent request. He was grateful to engage with colleagues from the provincial team with whom the Committee had been working collaboratively over the long term. He looked forward to inviting them to police stations across the province.

The meeting was adjourned.

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