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SAPS IN CRISIS

Delft Police Station — no holding cells, no photocopier, #1 for murders in South Africa

Delft Police Station — no holding cells, no photocopier, #1 for murders in South Africa
Illustrative image: (Photos: Leila Dougan | Shelley Christian | Rawpixel)

On top of being short-staffed, the police station in Delft, Cape Town, which records the highest number of murders in the country, does not have a working copy machine and its holding cells are not operational.

About two weeks ago, a Delft crime-fighting group and a police detective were hailed for their efforts in combating crime, but the conditions police work under in the area are dire.

In the City of Cape Town’s neighbourhood watch awards, Delft’s Extreme Neighbourhood Watch received the Social Responsibility Award, which recognises a commitment to addressing, mitigating and healing social ills and fostering healthier, inclusive and united communities. Its co-founder, Elsabe Petersen, received the Inspiration of the Year Award for her public leadership.

At the South African Police Service (SAPS) Western Cape awards, Warrant Officer Thobela Nzimani received the award for Best Detective.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Extreme inspiration — meet the award-winning locals tackling crime in Delft, SA’s murder capital

Delft is about 20km from the Cape Town CBD and is officially the country’s murder capital, with 80 reported murders between July and September 2023.

More recently, extortion claims led to several murders at various government projects.

Read more in Daily Maverick: City of Cape Town to restart massive housing project stalled by extortion and murder

According to the 2011 census, 152,000 people were living in Delft. The 2022 census data for the area has not yet been released, but the population is likely to have increased substantially.

In the past 10 years, at least six schools have been built to keep up with demand.

However, Delft still has only one police station – it is understaffed and does not have equipment for officers to print or copy documents such as affidavits.

According to sources, this has been the case for five months. To make matters worse, the station cannot currently use its holding cells to detain suspects as the cells are being renovated.

Suspects are instead kept at the Bellville Police Station 11km away.

“We are sending unemployed people to Belhar Police Station for affidavits,” said a Delft officer.

“People come to open a case and there is no paperwork – where have you heard that before? People get frustrated and are taking pictures and videos of us while swearing at us. With the cells being renovated, people are not detained here … if a member of the public comes to report a missing person we cannot even check if maybe the person was arrested or not.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Delft: Poor policing and fragmented planning fuel high crime rate

Delft Community Action member Farida Ryklief said she was aware of the situation and expressed her disappointment with both the provincial and national governments. 

“It’s pathetic given the fact that Delft is considered a priority station. Provincial or national [governments] do not prioritise Delft SAPS or our broader community.”

“This is not a finance issue,” said Pastor Charles George, chairperson of the local community policing forum, referring to the lack of printers and photocopy machines.

“The station is waiting for the service provider to deliver the equipment, but it’s stuck at the port because the ship cannot dock.

“When there is a shortage of papers, police sometimes cannot go to the neighbouring station to make copies because the station is understaffed and we need all hands on deck.”

George said they were working with several organisations, including churches, to certify documents to ease the pressure on the Delft Police Station. 

He blamed red tape for the delays in renovating the holding cells.

“There are capable (local) people, but the process used to appoint contractors favours companies that are registered as service providers.”

‘Venting to the media’

Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel André Traut chastised officers for speaking to the media. “All SAPS members are familiar with the processes to follow if they are not satisfied with their working conditions. Venting to the media is unfortunately not one of their options, and we are currently looking into the matter.

“Notwithstanding the above, further be advised that the photocopier contract has come to an end and the delivery of a replacement machine is imminent. The allegation that there is no paper and that cases cannot be opened is far from the truth.”

Traut said it was not uncommon for buildings to require maintenance or renovations from time to time, and the cell complex at Delft Police Station was no exception. 

“Scheduled maintenance has necessitated that alternative arrangements with the detention of arrested people are made, and the cells of neighbouring stations have been used for this purpose. This is a standard arrangement whenever work is carried out at cells at a police station.

“The renovations at the cells at Delft Police Station are close to completion and should be ready to accommodate detainees in the next few days.”

Western Cape MEC of Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagen Allen, said no police officer should have to work under such conditions.

“We are fully aware of the various resource shortages across the province, and to now have a station with the highest murder rate in a situation like this is an indictment of the national government’s failure to effectively support SAPS in this province and across the country.”

He said he would engage with the provincial police commissioner and relevant management structures about the situation.

“I encourage the SAPS officers to follow due procedures and report these matters to their respective management structures.

“The devolution of policing powers to a capable provincial government such as ourselves is the only solution, as we will ensure that incidents such as this do not occur at our stations and that they are fully equipped and resourced.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • A Concerned Citizen says:

    A strong example of why control of policing powers should be devolved to provincial or local authorities who understand the local situation and have the on-the-ground capacity and knowledge. Another reason to remove the ANC – though this is happening in Cape Town, the DA has no control over SAPS facilities, but best believe things would be different if they did.

  • Anne Felgate says:

    ‘Delft Community Action member Farida Ryklief said she was aware of the situation and expressed her disappointment with both the provincial and national governments.’
    My understanding is that the provincial government cannot do anything as it is a national (ANC) responsibility
    Or am I mistaken?
    If I’m correct, it is disappointing that such an important person as Farida Ryklief is misinformed

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Sign of a failed state(anc).This happens all over south africa

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Generals, Management, not accidental.

  • Richard Blake says:

    We have that filthy criminal Cele to thank you for the high levels of crime and a broken SAPS.

  • John Patson says:

    Of course it is beyond possible that the old printers and photocopiers be repaired? All you need is a screwdriver and common sense, most of the time.
    South Africa is not alone, Covid showed how, across Europe, people buy cheap from China when things break down, rather than even trying a simple repair.

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