Photos: Dirty police headquarters evacuated, declared unfit

Henry

The police’s main office in Pretoria, where minister Bheki Cele also has an office, is empty after it was declared unfit for human use on Tuesday.

An immediate notice of improvement was issued and police members were told to leave the building.

This building in Pretorius Street, which the police bought about eight years ago for almost R900 million and then apparently renovated, will now remain closed until further notice until it is declared safe again.

Johan Böning, head of Solidarity’s department for occupational health and safety, went with an inspector from the department of labor to the police headquarters in the Telkom tower on Tuesday, where it was declared unsafe for human use.

This visit follows several complaints from police members about a lack of clean drinking water, poor or broken air conditioning and ventilation, broken and dirty toilets, closed and unmarked emergency exits, lifts that do not work, insufficient equipment for fire fighting and general dirty and contaminated office spaces.

Solidarity also received complaints of alleged respiratory diseases and allergic reactions, presumably due to the dirty office spaces and lack of fresh air. Some workers also complained about dirty carpets, lice and cockroaches.

Böning says that after numerous complaints and several unanswered letters to the police’s division for occupational health and safety and Lt. Gen. SW Chamane, divisional commissioner of legal services at the police, decides to conduct an on-site investigation.

According to Renate Pieterse, network coordinator for the public industry at Solidarity, this head office is the place where, among other things, the police’s legal department and corporate management department must work.

“Cele and the national police commissioner, gen. Fannie Masemola, is also supposed to sit there. The upper floor where min. Cele’s designated office is newly redone and secured with high tech security devices.

“This while the rest of the 24 floors are considered unlivable,” says Pieterse.

In addition, the building did not have the required occupation certificates or approval from the fire brigade, says Pieterse. “The police head office may therefore only open its doors again after an occupation certificate has been awarded and the fire brigade has carried out an inspection.”

Helgard Cronjé, deputy general secretary of public industry at Solidarity, says it is shocking that the country’s official law enforcers cannot even comply with basic security legislation.

“Yet few can. Cele used police money and time to fly with a police helicopter to the ANC’s manifesto launch in Durban; back home the head office is absolutely run down.

“So, what are the priorities now, ANC politics or the safety of citizens? I think the answer is obvious. And this is a very serious matter. The impact on worker morale in the police and its effect on crime fighting is very severe.”

On Wednesday, RNews addressed several questions about the situation to the police’s national spokesperson, but has not yet received any feedback.