Police minister says he’s been working from home for four years because of “terrible” state of SAPS building

“We paid more money trying to fix that thing than we paid for buying it,” Bheki Cele tells Parliament

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Public Works Minister Sihle Zikalala next to Police Minister Bheki Cele briefed members of parliament’s portfolio committee on police on Wednesday on the Telkom Towers debacle. Photo: Matthew Hirsch

  • Police Minister Bheki Cele told MPs on Wednesday that he has been working from home for the past four years due to the state of the Telkom Towers building which houses SAPS headquarters in Pretoria.
  • Last week the building was evacuated and closed after it was found unfit for use.
  • Public Works will also be conducting a forensic investigation.

Police Minister Bheki Cele says he has been working from home for the past four years due to the state of the Telkom Towers building, which houses police headquarters.

Briefing the Portfolio Committee on Police in Parliament on Wednesday he referred to the Telkom Building as the “Terrible Towers”.

The Department of Public Works has launched an internal investigation into the mismanagement of the Telkom Towers complex as well as other properties owned by the department in Pretoria’s city centre.

Last week, staff were evacuated after the building being used by the police was declared uninhabitable. This followed an inspection by labour department officials, police management and the Solidarity trade union a week ago.

The Auditor-General’s office reported that only one of the nine buildings in the complex, bought by the government in 2016 for about R700-million had ever been used by SAPS.

Wednesday’s committee meeting was dominated by the Telkom Towers complex debacle.

Cele told MPs: “The thing is a disaster…We paid more money trying to fix that thing than the money that we paid for buying it.”

He revealed that he has been working from home for the past four years due to the state of the building. “Police don’t have a place to work,” he said.

“We have been crying to be assisted on this matter many times,” Cele told MPs.

Committee chairman Albert Seabi (ANC) said: “Last week we had the distressing news that the Telkom Towers complex had to be evacuated. It disrupts our services. The state of the building provided to police has been an area of concern. We were hopeful for meaningful intervention. Our officers must be enabled to fight crime.”

“We are sitting with a Minister who does not have an office,” said Ntaoleng Peacock (ANC). “We want to know when these police stations are going to be completed.

“Officials are very frustrated. We want solutions, we don’t want problems,” she said.

Ockert Terblanche (DA) agreed with Peacock. He added: “It’s not only Telkom Towers in a crisis. We cannot have senior officials here dealing with buildings, they must be out on the street. I left the police 14 years ago, and the service from Public Works is even worse than when I left.”

Public Works director-general Sifiso Mdakane told MPs that he “felt bad” that Cele didn’t have an office. He said that arrangements for alternative accommodation for SAPS members are being made. “Our technical teams specifically looked at government buildings. We looked at the CSIR and PRASA to assist us with accommodation. That will give us enough time to fix the things that were raised.”

Mdakane committed to return to the committee with a detailed report in two weeks.

Speaking to GroundUp before the meeting, Public Works Minister Sihle Zikalala said the department’s forensic investigation into Telkom Towers “will start soon” to determine “where things went wrong”.

TOPICS:  Policing

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