Cape Town police officers face eviction from inner-city barracks

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Police officers facing eviction from their barracks at Cape Town central police station yesterday accused their managers for being uncaring and placing their lives at risk.

Almost 30 male and female police officers living in single rooms on the second floor above the police station on Buitenkant Street had to leave the building by yesterday.

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They were told their rooms would be converted into administration offices. But they refused to vacate the building as they have not secured alternative accommodation.

They showed their rooms and living conditions yesterday. Most of them did not want their names or faces published in the newspaper for “fear of intimidation”.

The officers said they also feared for their lives as the only places they could possibly move to were townships where criminals target police officers.

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All the officers are from outside Cape Town and mostly from other provinces. They are deployed at police stations across the city.

One officer from Limpopo, who has lived at the barracks for the last 10 years, said he would prefer to be transferred to his hometown so that he could be with his wife and children.

“I have applied for a transfer but we are told that we need to wait until somebody else from our province can replace us in Cape Town. If I was in Limpopo I could walk to work. It would be better for me to be with my wife and children,” he said.

A police officer from the Eastern Cape said he had planned to move to Khayelitsha instead of being evicted, but those plans changed swiftly.

“I was going to move out of the barracks to Khayelitsha. My colleague moved there a month ago. Two days after he moved there his place was broken into and his uniform was stolen. Luckily his firearm was not there,” he said.

Living conditions for police officers at Cape Town central police station are not ideal, as evident in this peeling ceiling in the woman's bathroom. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Living conditions for police officers at Cape Town central police station are not ideal, as evident in this peeling ceiling in the woman’s bathroom. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“Criminals want our firearms. We are not safe in townships. And our bosses do not care about our safety. If we move out of the barracks we will be in danger. It looks like building offices are more important than our lives.”

An officer from Kwa-Zulu Natal who has lived in the barracks since 2011 said one of his colleagues had also “been chased in the day by skollies (gangsters)”.

“They wanted his gun. He was in uniform. The public saw it and they don’t care,” said the officer.

He said their run-down barracks toilets had also not regularly been cleaned. Not all the showers in both the male and female toilets work and the ceiling paint is peeling. The barracks are generally in a state of neglect.

The Kwa-Zulu Natal officer added: “They are not cleaning our floor because they want us out. They also limit our electricity use.

“We have looked for other places but it is too expensive. Rent is very high in Cape Town. We can only afford places in townships but we are targeted there. Criminals want our guns.”

A female police officer does her laundry inside the dilapidated women's bathroom on the second floor of the Cape Town central police station barracks from where she and others will be evicted. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

A female police officer does her laundry inside the dilapidated women’s bathroom on the second floor of the Cape Town central police station barracks from where she and others will be evicted. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

After tax deductions, the officers earn R5,000 to R7,600 a month. They pay R1,400 rent a month to stay in the rooms.

Police officer Vanessa Elias from Worcester said she would also prefer being stationed in her hometown. She has lived in the barracks for a decade and is based at Cape Town central station.

“I’m horrified about our situation. It has affected my work,” she said.

Elias said she had no family in Cape Town and was scared to be seen in uniform when not on duty.

“Our jobs are so dangerous. I was robbed in Kraaifontein. Two guys ripped off my badge. I fought with them. If we are at home at least we have our family around us for support.”

Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana, spokesman for the Western Cape police, could not confirm when the officers would be evicted.

He said a “thorough process of consultation was followed by management with members concerned”.

“The whole issue of the accommodation was discussed with them earlier, to enable those affected to seek alternative means of accommodation. The department’s doors are always open to those who may not have understood the processes as was explained to them.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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