Less than half of SAPS Air Wing in the air
In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, has admitted that only 19 of 49 aircraft of the South African Police Service Air Wing are currently flying. This is a crucial resource in tackling crime and the fact that the aircraft are grounded, through what can only be gross mismanagement, is a major crisis.
I will be writing to the acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Annelize van Wyk, to request that the Minister and National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, be called before us to explain to the committee why more than half of the SAPS Air Wing is sitting gathering dust, and what plan she has put in place to ensure that they are all operational.
Despite an extensive question having been asked, the Minister once again failed to answer fully. Apart from the fact that 19 helicopters and planes are currently flying, with 30 other aircraft currently grounded or being serviced, we were told nothing more.
In addition, six of the aircraft have been grounded since before December 2012. These are quite possibly the Robinson R44s which were bought for the World Cup but have never been used.
The Minister failed to answer on how much flying time remains on each aircraft and when they were last serviced. The Minister also refused to provide the service roster. This begs the question as to whether the Minister is deliberately trying to hide the dates of the last service and flying hours left for the aircraft.
Last year, the DA discovered that 18 of our 37 helicopters were grounded as there was no maintenance strategy in place due to tender problems. It appears the SAPS wings are not just clipped but irretrievably broken.
It appears that the maintenance strategy for the SAPS Air Wing is still non-existent if fewer than half of the SAPS Air Wing is in the air.
The SAPS Air Wing is a vital resource in tackling crime, particularly for rapid response crime call-outs and anti-drug operations. Yet the current SAPS management has them sitting around in hangars useless and unused.
The Minister and the National Police Commissioner must answer for this failure.
Statement issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, DA Shadow Minister of Police, June 12 2013
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