SAPS HQ declared unfit for human use - Solidarity

Telkom Towers building must remain closed until further notice unless an inspection declares it safe again

National SAPS head office must close after Solidarity reveals appalling conditions

28 February 2024

The national head office of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Pretoria has been declared unfit for human use and had to be evacuated immediately yesterday.

The building must remain closed until further notice unless an inspection declares it safe again.

Yesterday Solidarity’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Division, together with an inspector from the Department of Labour, paid a visit to the head office at the so-called Telkom Towers, which was bought and renovated eight years ago by the SAPS for nearly R900 million.

This visit was the result of numerous complaints and several unanswered letters from the OHS to the SAPS and Lt. Gen. S.W. Chamane, divisional commissioner of the SAPS’s Legal Services.

Johan Böning, head of the OHS division at Solidarity, said several complaints have been received from police members, including serious allegations such as the shortage of clean drinking water, poor and broken air conditioning and ventilation, broken and dirty toilets, closed and unmarked emergency exits, broken lifts, inadequate fire fighting equipment and general dirty and contaminated office spaces.

Among these complaints were claims of respiratory illnesses and allergic reactions, presumably due to dirty office space and poor ventilation, and workers also complained of dirty carpets and problems with lice and cockroaches.

According to Renate Pieterse, network coordinator of Solidarity’s public industry, this head office is the place where the SAPS’s legal department and corporate management department, among others, must work.

“The Minister of Police (Bheki Cele) and National Police Commissioner (Fannie Masemola) are also supposed to sit there. The upper floor where Minister Cele’s designated office is, has been newly renovated and secured with good technological security devices. This while the rest of the 24 floors are considered unliveable.

“After the Department of Labour and Solidarity’s OHS Department completed the inspection, the Department issued an immediate notice of improvement and the building was evacuated immediately,” Pieterse said.

Furthermore, the building does not have the necessary Certificates of Occupancy or approval from the fire brigade. Therefore, the SAPS head office may only reopen its doors after a Certificate of Occupancy has been issued and an inspection by the fire brigade has also been carried out.

According to Helgard Cronjé, deputy general secretary of the Public Industry at Solidarity, it is shocking to realise that the country’s official law enforcers cannot even comply with basic security legislation.

“Yet Minister Cele can use police money and time to fly with a police helicopter to the ANC’s manifesto launch in Durban, but back home the head office is completely dilapidated.

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

Statement issued by Helgard Cronjé, Deputy General Secretary: Public Industry, Solidarity, 28 February 2024