The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is extremely concerned that there is only one SAPS helicopter in Gauteng that is serviceable and operational in the entire province. Initially there was two serviceable and operational helicopters, but one has been sent to the Western Cape since the province had no serviceable helicopter for the past two years. This is one of the provincial Air Wing Unit’s most needed resources in order to effectively tackle crime, particularly for rapid response crime call outs, rescue operations of missing persons, and crowd control to ensure the safety of residents.
This information was revealed by the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko in a written reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.
According to MEC Mazibuko, the SAPS Air Wing Unit in Gauteng is not fully functional because of helicopters not being serviceable.
Gauteng residents already do not feel safe, especially considering the increased rate of crime as revealed by the SAPS crime statistics for the fourth quarter for the 2020/21. Gauteng has been rated number one in terms of violent crimes such as multiple murders, murder related to illicit mining, robbery, and robbery of cash-in transit, carjacking and truck hijacking.
The SAPS Air Wing Unit provides critical support to officers on the ground by helping them find criminals hiding in thick bush, searching for missing persons, and chasing armed robbers in high-speed chases.
Furthermore, the MEC indicated that each region in Gauteng, namely Johannesburg Air Wing located in Germiston, and National Heliport and Wonderboom Air Wing both located in Pretoria, are not fully operational because they do not have a full complement of helicopters. Most of the helicopters have not been functioning since November 2018 and some helicopters were expected to be operational as of July 2020, but to date, they are still not operational.
These aircrafts are strategically placed in different regions for crime prevention and to respond to call outs for armed robbers and cash-in transit heists. The Air Wing Unit is also crucial for accurate aerial observation of crimes and can track suspect movements rapidly and without obstructions of traffic and bystanders.
In order to ensure the safety and security of our people, we need to have adequate resources that will allow police to perform their duties efficiently.
The DA demands MEC Mazibuko to engage with her national counterpart, Minister of Police, Bheki Cele to ensure availability of serviceable, airworthy, and well-equipped aircraft to effectively fight crime in the province.
I will be tabling follow-up questions to the MEC in the Legislature to ascertain what plans are being put in place to ensure that our SAPS Air Wing Unit that is severely under-resourced is given the resources it needs to combat crime. Our residents deserve a police service that is adequately resourced to keep them safe in their homes and on the street.
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