Men and women in blue fight murder, while dodging flying bullets

Officers at Kopanong Police Station are still positive, despite difficult working conditions. PHOTO: SEITHATI SEMENOKANE

The Bainsvlei Police Station in Bloemfontein came up tops during an inspection in loco by the Public Service Commission (PSC). The commission visited three police stations in the city – Bainsvlei, Bloemspruit and Kopanong. Provincial PSC Commissioner, Henk Boshoff, says it’s difficult to visit a model station like Bainsvlei, because there is nothing to compare it with. But these findings were in stark difference about the situation at Bloemspruit and Kopanong. Shocking challenges and working conditions of the officers in blue were found at Bloemspruit and Kopanong. Boshoff said a worrying increase in gang rape is rocking Kopanong policing area. He said estimations are that the population statistics in the area – mostly consisting of informal settlements – have tripled since the release of the last official statistics. “The area is growing at a tremendous pace and a lot of illegal immigrants – mostly from Lesotho – are settling here,” said Boshoff. He said the PSC is going to recommend in the report that the Department of Home Affairs urgently intervene as part of the police’s crime prevention effort. A damning report on crime – those who commit it and those who fight it at two police stations in Bloemfontein – is going to be tabled soon. The report will follow.
The situation at Bloemspruit was even worse. Here police officers had a total of six murders in one weekend during the time of the inspection and bullet holes in a wall of the station are evidence of how dangerous and life-threatening the situation has become for officers in blue working in this crime-ridden area. Boshoff said police officers have to dodge bullets randomly fired at the building by drive-by shooters. This discovery was made during Boshoff’s visit. Flying bullets, a serious shortage of officers and police vehicles and dingy offices without air-conditioning are just some of the challenges the men and women in blue at Bloemspruit have to face. “These holes are on the inside (of the station). So if someone was sitting in the office, they could have been killed. It is an extremely dangerous area to work and operate in,” said Boshoff.
He added municipal services in the area also seem non-existent. “We found overflowing blocked drains, the area around the station was filthy and the access roads to the station are inaccessible.” Boshoff said the moral of police officers at the stations are at an all-time low. “I am going to ask the provincial department of Social Development to look into and address the situation as it has undertaken in the Provincial Crime Prevention Framework.” He said the framework was put together by the provincial government and is going to address most of these concerns. “My request is that the provincial government implement the framework as soon as possible to address the situation,” he said. – Cathy Dlodlo