Flying squad’s wings clipped

A file picture of the flying squad fleet vehicles Image: File/Sibongile Ngalwa

The Mdantsane police cluster flying squad is grounded. It does not have a single functioning vehicle.

The cluster fights serious crime in a large area stretching from Mdantsane, Cambridge, Berlin, Bluewater on the N2 near Gonubie, Mooiplaas, Komga, Kei Mouth and Macleantown.

The unit is attached to all 10 police stations that fall under the Mdantsane cluster.

Sources told the Dispatch all the unit’s vehicles are parked in garages with a number of mechanical problems, some as basic as punctured tyres.

The unit is one of the most important crime fighting divisions, with its fleet of low-slung GTI Golf7s and BMWs. They are used for high-speed chases of hijackers, and cash-in-transit and business robbers.

The Dispatch has reliably learnt that some of the cars were booked into garages for malfunctioning sirens, blue lights, radios and loudhailers.

Members from the unit accused their top management of “allowing the unit to die a slow death”.

Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga confirmed the vehicle shortage but explained the reasons in an e-mailed statement.

Ntshinga said: “It must be kept in mind that SAPS vehicles are utilised on a 24-hour basis and will from time to time be taken to the garages for mechanical failure or servicing.

“SAPS can confirm that the lack of running vehicles at the Mdantsane flying squad was brought to management’s attention and steps are being taken to address the situation.”

The Mdantsane flying squad is one of 14 units which benefited from June 21 2017 handover of 27 top-of-the-range vehicles valued at R16-million.

The 27 vehicles were a last batch of 416 SAPS vehicles purchased by the province in the 2016-2017 financial year.

Ntshinga said following the handover of the fleet there was an increase in cases of neglect and lack of maintenance.

Ntshinga said garage managers were increasingly reporting cases of police members dumping vehicles in the garages without the necessary paperwork being completed, which had led to a piling up of broken vehicles.

At the handover event, Eastern Cape transport MEC Weziwe Tikana told the Dispatch that extensive delays in repairs and maintenance were being caused by bureaucratic procedures not being completed.

Tikana said unplanned repairs to punctures cannot happen without having to wait for the approval from the SAPS headquarters in Pretoria.

She announced plans to bypass this red tape by roping in TVET engineering students at police garages to do repairs as part of their training.

Police new vehicle warehouse commander Captain Jacques Booth is on record as saying last year that the flying squad vehicles were a “necessity” in the fight against crime.

Popcru Eastern Cape chairman and Hawks investigative unit commander Loyiso Mdingi called the squad’s vehicle crisis the tip of the iceberg.

“What we have heard is that the commander of that unit failed or forgot to do the paperwork. We are sitting on a crisis of bad management in this province. All the 196 police stations in the province are experiencing shortages of cars.”

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