A new police station in Moeka Village north of Pretoria is standing empty while the community struggles with crime.

When the construction of Moeka-Vuma police station in the North West’s Moretele District Municipality started in 2013, the community hoped that the crime rate in the area would decline.

But the police station, which was completed in 2014, has never been used. The paint on the walls is peeling off. Some of the windows are broken and weeds are growing on the pavement.

The village’s Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson, Abel Kubai (69), says the most common crimes in the village are house break-ins, robberies and assaults.

“I work very closely with the police, and I can tell you that we wouldn’t be having this challenge of crime in our community if Moeka-Vuma police station was working,” Kubai said.

“Early this year my family and I were robbed at gunpoint at home by thugs who made away with around R2,000 and four cellphones,” he said.

Kubai said he was concerned that residents had resorted to taking the law into their own hands.

“People are starting to lose faith in the police. Recently five alleged criminals were locked inside a car they were travelling in and then set alight. Four of them died, while we are told the other one is recovering in hospital.

“Like everybody in this community I am troubled by the high level of crime, but I am totally against mob justice. I believe they could have been saved if the police responded on time” he said.

Moeka Village and the neighbouring villages of Ratsiepane and Ga-Motla, in North West, are served by Temba police station, 30 kilometres away in Hammanskraal, which is in Gauteng.

Kubai said residents took a long time to get to the police station to report crime and the distance also contributed to the slow response by police.

Another resident who has first-hand experience of crime in the village is Abel Molaba, who has a gunshot scar on the heel from a wound sustained during a robbery at his home in March.

Glancing at the bullet hole in the front door of his house, Molaba said he was still haunted by the memory of the night the robbers broke in.

“They demanded money and ransacked the house before fleeing with our cellphones and money. Five bullets were shot. Luckily only one hit me. They also hit me with a blunt object on the head. I don’t know how I survived,” Molaba said.

With help from neighbours he called the police but when they took too long to arrive he went to Temba police station where he was told to sign a form and then go to hospital.

“They said they would come to hospital but they never came. The incident took place in March this year and I am still waiting for an update on the case to this day,” he said.

Molaba, who runs a fruit and vegetable shop not far away from his home, lives with his wife, daughter and elderly mother, who were also there during the robbery.

“The incident took place in front of my family and you can imagine how traumatising that experience was for everybody in the house. My daughter was crying, thinking I was dead” he said.

Molaba also believes the level of crime in the village would be lower if the police station was operational.

Abel Molaba was shot and robbed in his home. Photo: Sana Mabena

The village’s Local Councilor John Mahomane said he met police officers from Temba police station last month. “But so far it’s not clear when the station will start working,” said Mahomane.

During his department’s budget vote speech for the 2019-20 financial year in July, North West MEC for Community Safety and Transport Sello Lehare cited poor workmanship by the contractor as the reason why Moeka–Vuma police station was not working.

Lehare noted that Dwarsberg and Mabeskraal police stations in the Bojanala District Municipality were also not being used. He said Moeka-Vuma would be provided with a mobile police station. But no mobile police station has been provided yet.

According to Moeka resident and former Moretele Municipality councillor Peter Makhudu, the reason why the police station is not working after so many years is that something went wrong with the construction of the project.

“The usual response you get when you enquire about Moeka-Vuma police station at Moretele Municipality is that the enquiry is noted and that it will be referred to the relevant people”.

Weeds are growing around the new police station at Moeka village. Photo: Sana Mabena

Attempts to get comment from the North West Department of Community Safety and Transport were unsuccessful. Spokesperson Freddy Sepeng agreed to an interview last Friday and asked us to call back, but has not answered calls since then.

SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo referred us to North West SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone, who asked for questions to be emailed.

We sent Mokgwabone the following questions on 16 September:

Our understanding is that the construction of Moeka-Vuma police station was halted due to poor workmanship by the contractor. How true is this?
Can you please explain, what exactly is the problem with the building, as it looks fine and ready for use from outside?
What is the name of the construction company that was awarded the contract to build the station, and when did the project start and stop (year and month)?
How much was budgeted for the project, and how much had already been spent when the project stopped?
Are you able to tell how much is it going to cost to rectify the situation with the building?
If the project was stopped due to poor quality of construction, what steps if any, is SAPS taking to rectify this?
Are steps being taken to recoup the money that SAPS has spent on the project from the constructor? If yes, please elaborate.
If steps are being taken, what has been the constructor’s response? Does the contractor admit to shoddy work?
How is the situation with the police station affecting your crime fighting efforts in Moeka Village and surrounding areas?
According to residents the level of crime in the area is very high. Are you aware of this? If yes what’s being done to deal with the situation?
We gather that due to the high level of crime in the area recently residents have tended to take the law into their own hands, with the latest incident involving four alleged criminals who were allegedly set alight. Are you aware of this incident and what’s your message to the community?
We understand that there are two other stations in North West — Dwarsberg and Mabeskraal police stations in the Bojanala District Municipality — that are also not being utilised. What is the situation with them?
How widespread is the problem of SAPS building defects due to poor workmanship in the province?

Mokgwabone responded the same day: “Kindly be informed that your enquiry has been referred to Head Office – Brigadier Vish Naidoo for further handling.”

We have not yet received a response from Naidoo.

Republished from GroundUp

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