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SAPS IN CRISIS

‘Not fit for any person to work in’ – unsafe police headquarters in Pretoria shut

‘Not fit for any person to work in’ – unsafe police headquarters in Pretoria shut
Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photos: Supplied)

Toilets that were not working, fire extinguishers that had not been serviced since July 2022, dysfunctional ventilation equipment and sewage leaks are among the reasons the Department of Labour ordered the closure of the SA Police Service headquarters in Pretoria’s Telkom Towers North building.

On Tuesday, 27 February, labour department officials, accompanied by police management and the Solidarity trade union, which represents some SAPS members, inspected the police’s Telkom Towers North building in Pretoria. The offices were declared unsafe and immediately shut down.

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

The closure of the 24-storey building comes days after the South African Air Force temporarily closed its headquarters in Pretoria. Unsafe and unhealthy working conditions caused by malfunctioning ventilation systems were cited as the cause.

According to national police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, the Telkom Towers building in Pretoria’s CBD accommodates personnel attached to components whose mandate is to provide administrative support to operational divisions.

Arrangements, she said, were being made for these functions to be performed from alternative premises. 

The Telkom Towers complex consists of 10 buildings measuring 221,954 square meters of lettable accommodation.

Renate Barnard, a representative from the trade union Solidarity, was part of the inspection.

“Every floor looked in a terrible state, unfit for any person to work in. Department of Labour inspectors made notes and took pictures of the terrible state under which SAPS management was working,” said Barnard on Thursday.

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

She expressed concern that the refurbished 24th floor – which was supposed to accommodate Police Minister Bheki Cele – was fitted with expensive office equipment, in stark contrast to the dilapidated state of the rest of the building.

Cele, she said, had not taken an office in the building.

Barnard went on to say that more than 900 people worked in the building that had been bought for R695-million in 2015 from the Telkom Retirement Fund, with another R200-million scheduled to be spent on renovations, with a completion date of 2026.

In May 2023, Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Sihle Zikalala visited Telkom Towers. Zikalala said the purchase of the property was intended to provide suitable office space for the police, without hindering their work and operations.

Inhumane conditions

About 30 photos taken of the building this week depict the unsafe conditions, including toilets not working, fire extinguishers that had not been serviced since July 2022, dysfunctional ventilation equipment, sewage leaks, unused electrical boxes, plastic bags and empty food containers strewn on the floors, sections of ceilings missing and a conference room filled with rubbish.

Following the inspection, the Department of Labour ordered that no employees be allowed to occupy the building, that a survey be conducted to ensure compliance with workplace environmental regulations, and that SAPS obtain a certificate of approval from the City of Tshwane for the firefighting equipment.

The Department of Labour further discovered that the building lacked a valid certificate of occupancy.

Tip of the iceberg

Solidarity had expressed concerns about unsafe working conditions for SAPS staff at the Telkom Towers building in a letter dated 2 November 2023.

Solidarity said SAPS had breached the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993 by failing to ensure a safe working environment for its employees.

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

The trade union urged SAPS to take immediate action to address the situation and provide feedback within 30 days. SAPS did not respond, prompting the union to ask the Department of Labour to investigate.

According to Solidarity’s Barnard, disgruntled SAPS trade union members brought the issue of the unsafe environment to their attention.

“Union members asked us to intervene because the environment was deplorable. And because lifts were not always operational, police management at the building had to walk 22 floors up and down.”

Barnard said there was a “60-year-old senior officer working on the 22nd floor. This officer describes walking 22 flights of stairs every day as a nightmare. Members’ morale is at an all-time low”.

She said these issues should have been addressed much earlier and that they were only the tip of the iceberg.

“It is an unhealthy building… Many of our members have developed chronic illnesses as a result of poor ventilation and non-working toilets. We will also look into why the police minister did not take an office on the 24th floor. We are busy questioning the cost of refurbishing this office. It is a wasteful expenditure because the minister did not move in there,” she said.

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

unsafe police headquarters

Inside the SAPS management facility Telkom Towers in Pretoria after the closure by the Department of Labour on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Supplied)

On Thursday, Bethuel Nkuna, president of the Independent Policing Union of South Africa, expressed disappointment that the police’s Pretoria headquarters had been forced to close.

“This building has been dilapidated since complaints about flooding began in 2021. The building has been crumbling and it is concerning that another executive authority is forcing SAPS management to fix it.”

He said the building also housed the police’s legal team.

Nkuna questioned why SAPS waited until the Department of Labour declared the building unsafe before acting.

Well-being of employees

Following the closure of the building, a police management statement on Wednesday said that SAPS’ primary concern was the well-being and safety of its employees. 

According to Mathe, it was on this basis that National Commissioner General Fannie Masemola instructed all personnel to vacate the premises.

“The SAPS is in continuous engagements with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure whose responsibility is the repair and maintenance of state facilities. Core policing has not been affected by this temporary closure,” she said.

Public Works spokesperson Lennox Mabaso did not respond to inquiries about the department’s plans for the problem building. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • JOHANN SCHOLTZ says:

    Shocking.

  • Gary Dunbar says:

    How did we get here?? Apart from the building falling apart, do people not clean up after themselves or do they think it’s someone else’s job to clean up their mess? The mind-set is absolutely astounding.

    • J vN says:

      Yes, the litter came from somewhere, which is the workers themselves. One only has to look at their behaviour on SA’s roads, and I’m not only talking about taxis, but also grand madams and sirs in their expensive German cars, who think nothing of throwing empty cans and KFC boxes from their cars, to understand why the building looks like this. The VIPs in their German cars also think that they can litter and somebody else will pick up behind them, which is the mentality of a 6-year-old.

      Aren’t we lucky to have such high-caliber human capital in the SAPD?

      • Geoff Coles says:

        Are they workers?

      • Iam Fedup says:

        Like a fool, I challenged one of these BEE appointments about throwing out stuff on the roads, and she said, “I’m doing good. Now they have to employ people to clean up.” Zero sense of pride, no sensitivity towards what the consequences are. The world is made of protons, electrons, neutrons and morons.

    • Ben Harper says:

      Proudly brought to you by the anc

    • A.K.A. Fred says:

      “Telkom Towers building in Pretoria’s CBD accommodates personnel attached to components whose mandate is to provide administrative support to operational divisions” – How are these employees even capable of “administrative support” if they can’t even organise their own workspace to be clean and functional. It says a lot about the capability of the employees….. Absolutely shocking.

    • Nicol Mentz says:

      There is no pride, pathonomonic of the attitude in in South Africa. “It is not my job!” Same happens at eskom where expensive electronic controll systems are covered in graphite dust because the cleaners did not clean. SIGH !

  • Terril Scott says:

    Looks like residents have destroyed their own building. Inhabited by vandals who we expect to serve and protect us.

  • R IA says:

    Core policing won’t be affected. That’s at least something!

  • Mike Lawrie says:

    That is quite unbelievable. There is a portion of my countrymen that do not know the word “maintenance”.

    • J vN says:

      Quoting from an excellent piece by American philosopher, Gedaliah Braun (Google his name with the words “Gedaliah Braun Morality Abstract Thinking” to find the article) :

      “…The principle reason for this is simply lack of maintenance on the generating equipment. Maintenance is future-oriented, and the **** entry in the dictionary for it is ‘ondla’, which means: “1. Nourish, rear; bring up; 2. Keep an eye on; watch (your crop).” In short, there is no such thing as maintenance in **** thought, and it would be hard to argue that this is wholly unrelated to the fact that when people throughout Africa say “nothing works,” it is only an exaggeration.”

      • T'Plana Hath says:

        I know it’s Friday but it’s a bit early for marijuana isn’t it? This makes about as much sense as saying that Germans are such hard-arses because they have no word for ‘fluffy’.

        • J vN says:

          Do yourself a favour, smoke less weed, and reduce your ignorance by reading the article yourself. There is much more to it than the short quotation above.

          Pfffttttttt….

  • Gordon Tonetti says:

    The pigs work in a pigsty

    • Palesa Tyobeka says:

      There is no need for insults. Be careful what it says about you and your character

      • Iam Fedup says:

        Get over yourself Palesa. How would you describe their behaviour?

      • David C says:

        There is every need for insults. Terrible, disgusting civil servants who literally provide no services but eat, steal and slack-off because of the sweat, hard work and sacrifices of taxpayers deserve absolutely NO compassion and must be called out for what they are, which is essentially parasites.

      • Jennifer D says:

        The only response to the unfortunate behaviour exhibited by our ruling people is always “racism or apartheid”. One cannot expect civil behaviour from an uncivilised people and the mess in Telkom towers is indicative of exactly this. If they do not begin to behave in a civilised way, the handful of people supporting the masses are not likely to continue and this uncivilised country will fall back into a “huts and a few cows” economy. And all the expensive shoes and big cars will be left in the dirty filthy pigsties.

    • Pieter van de Venter says:

      I agree – the remark is an affront to pigs.

  • jean lewis says:

    Unsafe, or badly maintained?

  • Robert Pegg says:

    There is no excuse for filthy conditions seen in the photos. Management allowed this to happen with no inspections, resulting in no pride in the workplace.
    I have seen the same in fire stations where there is no pride in the workplace anymore. Poor management is everywhere, which is a sad state for uniformed services, which are supposed to set an example.

  • John Patson says:

    Always someone else’s job to keep public spaces clean when there is no sense of duty or pride. You see similar squalor in Russia.
    Love the toaster — is that rust due to hands being held against it?

  • Sean Venske says:

    How does that get a DoEL improvement notice and not a contravention notice? Any private employer expecting their staff to work in such conditions would have been hauled over the coals and in front of the Labour Court

  • Rae Earl says:

    This is simply a manifestation of ANC rule. The Minister of Police Bheki Cele should be given a broom and bucket and told to clean the mess himself. It now becomes obvious why the SAPS is in such a dysfunctional state countrywide. Wonder if Cele’s state owned residencies are in the same condition as the building which houses his own office. And, Ramaphosa dotes on this inept and arrogant misfit. Astounding.

  • Prav Tulsi says:

    HA! HA! im sure money was allocated and tenders awarded to false companies and some folk are driving Maserati’s /porches, bought with public money yet not having done a stich of cabling/cleaning etc to infinity.

  • Trevor Gary Schwabe says:

    Our country needs a mindset change on values which needs to be inculcated from day one at primary school and reinforced all the way to Grade 12. Every citizen of this country needs to learn how to look after our environment, our infrastructure, our services.
    There is an attitude amongst the population that promotes trashing the environment because it creates jobs for street cleaners! Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there – it carries through on how people look after their work environment and that is why every government building in the country looks like they do. There is no no pride of place, self clean-up to look after what you have got – but an attitude of someone else will fix it!
    The Pretoria Police HQ? – Really? Can we call our Police force the pride of the country when they can’t look after their HQ!!
    Government is to blame for the degradation of the fabric of our society by allowing unplanned urban townships to grow unfettered making refuse collection, roadworks, water and sanitation infrastructure impossible!! For political numbers?
    Start now Grade 1 to Grade 12 – teach civilisation, value systems, vocational guidance, how to be proud!
    Introduce, man and police basic anti-pollution standards, care of public property and dish out punitive measures in the form of community service for disrespecting them!

    And by the way – best you put guards at Pretoria HQ while it is closed as every door, window and remaining taps and basins will disappear for sure!

  • Pieter van de Venter says:

    I am 100% sure this building was not in this state before affirmative action at Telkom or the take over by SAPS. I am told there is no word in ANY language is SA besides English, Afrikaans and Sign Language. Maybe that clears the real issue up.

    How long before the ANC cadres was Wachthuis used as SAP HQ? From the Telkom Towers they should be able to see Schubart Park x 4 and Kruger heights. Exactly the same condition as Telkom Tower, Air Force HQ, the roads, Eskom, sewerage works, etc.

    Viva ANC.

  • Tim Price says:

    Is that the R100 000.00(?) per 20l hand sanitizer left over from the C-19 feeding frenzy? Could perhaps use it to sterilize the place, looks as if it needs it.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    So, yet another excuse for SAPS to not do their work. Judging by the photos and descriptions, all of these are signs of people who live like pigs, and just couldn’t be bothered to clean up after themselves. Wish they’d join the cockroach.

  • Michael Thomlinson says:

    I lived in Aus for a while. The rule in the office was that everyone had to take a turn to clean and vacuum and one was expected to keep your own space clean and tidy. However, here in SA , if you are a white collar worker, then our people think that that is someone else’s job and rather than sink to that level it is better to live in squallor? Looks like they cancelled the cleaners contract or nobody payed them and they went on strike?

  • BadVlad Putinhere says:

    In the army we cleaned our own bungalows, toilets et al, painted when needed and kept in pristine condition, finding a stompie or a piece of paper outside of a rubbish bin was a deadly sin. Having visited friends at police college and barracks was exactly the same, they had inspection every morning and everything was neat and tidy including their uniforms and equipment.
    This is a management problem, the highest ranking officers in that building should demoted to privates and fired for gross dereliction of duty. You should see some of the police stations I have visited, police vans knee high in rubbish!
    This is a management problem, we need career professionals back in these services the lack of pride and discipline is shocking!

  • Pieter Malan says:

    I look forward to Zapiro’s analysis of this SAPS homemade mess. I am experiencing schadenfreude.

  • Rudolph Oosthuizen says:

    The “new” South Africa has thoroughly and unambiguously demonstrated that maintenance is a foreign concept to Ramaphosa’s people (aka “our people”). One must just accept that fundamentally “our people” are just consumers, not inventors, creators, constructors nor producers. So do not expect them to ever, of their own volition, understand the need for planned or routine maintenance.

  • Rudolph Oosthuizen says:

    Thanks Vincent Cruywagen. The photos and other visual evidence say more than any number of words can. Your article rubs salt in the wounds of utter neglect and acceptance of the disgusting working environment in SAPS offices, that has been allowed to degrade down to gutter level. Other commentors are correct in saying its a management problem. The tragedy is that the fat-cat “management” have been so spoilt by the ANC that they apparently do not care about this neglect because they have a sense of entitlement to their own private luxurious, heavily subsidised, high personal lifestyles. How can we ever expect any of our policemen and policewomen to have any pride in their jobs, and to uphold proper service level standards to us, the people they are there to serve? On top of this, the environments in which millions of ordinary citizens live have been degraded to such low levels by the ANC government that it has become too dangerous for policemen and women to risk their lives in our service.

  • jack braxton says:

    Messing on floors depicts the kind of attitude you have towards each other. No respect. I am sure the homes of the culprits do not look any better. Now I suppose we will have to pay for the renting of other premises and how long before it will be closed down. Same occupants.

  • jack braxton says:

    Fortunately for us staying in the Western Cape where neatness can still be found at most stations together with good service. Its all a management pride thing.

  • Andreas Joss says:

    This is hilarious 🤣🤣🤣 It’s so shocking that is actually becomes funny.

    • Christopher Campbell says:

      Sorry, this can’t be funny. Pathetic maybe, but definitely not funny. It’s all about attitude and levels of acceptance and provides no hope of service from these people.

  • Dietmar Horn says:

    It is the spirit of anarchy and nihilism that, when it takes hold of stupid followers, poisons the world. Greetings from Dostoyevsky’s demons.

  • Adri Bouma says:

    It looks exactly the same in a government building where I work….and nothing is being done about it..

  • W De Soto says:

    Do you think one of the political parties could manage SAPS better or would it be good to let provincial governments manage police departments?

    • Dietmar Horn says:

      In the Western Cape for sure, but otherwise?

      • Dietmar Horn says:

        But of course the continued employment of each individual civil servant would then have to be subject to probation through constitutional thought and action. A process that was carried out in West Germany after World War II under the term “denazification”.

  • Wilhelm Boshoff says:

    Now a cadre will have to provide a new building at an inflated rental. Everyone must eat.

  • P C Hem says:

    This scene is a screenshot of what is happening in SA today. Everywhere, things are collapsing and breaking down, in a few years this building will full of squatters living in abject squalor.

  • Change is good sa says:

    Moving to ‘Alternative Premises’ and ‘well being and safety of employees’ are just new words for ‘this corrupt tender is not working for us anymore’
    Unfortunately for the citizens of South Africa, there are never any whistleblowers in these circumstances, because their personal safety is not assured. Another ANC legacy.

  • David McCormick says:

    This property is probably “managed” by the Department of Public Works. This building looks beautiful when compared to some of the living quarters of the police men and women who reside in properties “managed” by DoPW.

  • Anthony Krijger says:

    A fish rots from the head. There are too many cadre appointed generals & fat-cats in the SAPS, all put there by the ANC. None of these fat cats think they should pick up their own trash, so with this example the bottom feeders do the same. There is no pride left in the SAPS or the ANC.

    • A Rosebank Ratepayer says:

      There is a chiShona word dzvaRegera which loosely translated means to let something that is working, stop working through negligence…
      It has been used to characterize what has happened in Zim. It is a source of embarrassment to some. Others shrug their shoulders and work around it.
      I wonder if there are similar words in South Africa’s languages.
      Institutions like police forces usually have daily and weekly inspections of premises, equipment and personnel by officers and NCOs, but clearly not here, and how many other police establishments….? It’s difficult to imagine if it wasn’t for the photos.
      These incidents, while stand alones on their own, collectively are propelling us quicker and quicker to Yeats’ apocalyptic end in The Second Coming.

      Woza 29th May…

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    The state in microcosm. The current crowd we’re cursed to have as a government bring pretty much everything they have control over to the same place.

  • Ivan van Heerden says:

    Viva Comrades!!!! Decolonizing day by day, office by office, institution by institution until only the ANC elite are left and the rest of South Africa festers like just another failed African state. Amandlaaaaaaaa!!

  • William Dryden says:

    Obviously the Department of Public Works have not been doing their job of maintaining the building in the past, however after viewing the photographs a lot of the blame for its dilapidating state especially the cleanliness Ie the state of the toilet etc is down to the people who occupy the offices. There must have been cleaners on a daily basis, or were they also sleeping.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    DPW is nonexistent(front company)

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