11 August 2023
Almost R13-million has been spent on the Ngqamakhwe police station in Ngqamakhwe town, in the Amatole District of the Eastern Cape. But there is almost nothing to show for it.
The building has been stripped by vandals. Roof sheets have been removed, the windows are smashed, and the doors have been stolen. This is despite the abandoned building being just metres from an active police station. And residents say criminals and drug users currently hangout in the derelict buildings.
When we visited the site, we were warned to be careful. We saw a group of about six youngsters smoking what appeared to be nyope. One was burning plastic off wiring, possibly to prepare the material for sale to a scrap yard. When the young men saw us taking photos, some left, others hid.
In 2011, the Ngqamakhwe police moved into prefab structure, in preparation for a R16-million tender to renovate the old station, awarded to Somana Construction in 2012.
Former ward councillor Zinzile Gade said the work was meant to take just 18 months. “The contractor was there for a few months, then we heard that there was a dispute … We waited, thinking that the contractor would return back to the site, but that never happened … ‘Till now we are still waiting,” said Gade.
He said the dispute between Somona and public works’ consultant and engineers was around the job’s specifications.
National Department of Public Work and Infrastructure spokesperson Thami Mchunu confirmed that to date R12,852,950 has been spent on the project. He said construction was halted due to litigation.
Meanwhile, the current police station has no land line and police rely on their cellphones. The toilets have to be flushed with water fetched from a tank. At night, the station is dark as the outside light is not working.
Ward 18 Councillor Lunga Dyantyi (ANC) said, “Crime here is increasing every day.”
He said the police station was understaffed and didn’t have enough vehicles.
Andile Somana, of Somana Construction, said the matter is returning to court for a second time. He said six months into the contract there were various contractual issues, which he is unable to share with GroundUp at this stage.
He said the department halted the project after a few months in order to resolve the issues. He estimated work was then about 30-40% complete.
Somana then went to court and the matter was referred for arbitration, which was concluded in April 2017 in Somana’s favour, Somana says.
But the department never complied and he has now returned to court to compel the department to adhere to the arbitration award, and to hold the officials in contempt of court, he said.
According to him, in terms of the arbitration, the department was meant to finalise the project with Somana Construction and pay all outstanding amounts for the work done.
Somana says the department still owes them several million, but the amounts need to be adjudicated.
Mchunu would not give details of the litigation. He also revealed that another site is being considered and SAPS was deliberating on this.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson Priscilla Naidu said plans to build a new police station are already under way, and a site identified.
“Engagements are at an advanced stage between the SAPS and the Department of Public Works to finalise the project plans. The provincial commissioner has prioritised this matter in order to ensure that the communities of Ngqamakhwe and surrounding areas have access to services,” said Naidu.
She denied that the station had too few vehicles.
She said the current ablution facilities were being repaired and electrical repairs are pending. A mobile generator and rechargeable lights are currently in use.