The Democratic Alliance (DA) is receiving reports that helicopters belonging to the South African Police Service Air Wing have been grounded for months. This is a waste of a valuable crime fighting resource.
A few weeks ago, it was reported that 15 of the 37 helicopters belonging to the SAPS Air Wing had been grounded, awaiting 'routine' inspection. This was followed by information sent to the DA that a further three SAPS Air Wing helicopters in Cape Town are in the hangar awaiting repairs.
This now brings the total of grounded SAPS helicopters, which we know of, to 18 out of 37. This is nearly half of the entire Air Wing.
Each of these grounded helicopters costs between R15-20 million. This means that nearly R300 million worth of crime fighting equipment is not currently being used to keep our citizens safe.
In addition, the Robinson R44s which the SAPS purchased for the World Cup are apparently yet to be used. These helicopters are fitted with specialised crime-fighting equipment such as searchlights and infrared technology.
The reason provided by the SAPS for the grounded helicopters is that they are awaiting routine inspection. Various sources have claimed that the maintenance cannot happen because SAPS has yet to decide who should be awarded the service contract.
I will be submitting parliamentary questions to determine the following:
The exact number of helicopters which have been grounded across the country since the beginning of the year; the length of time that these helicopters have been grounded for; the reason for the delay in fixing them; the number of times they should be serviced each year; and the status of the service contracts for these helicopters.
The SAPS Air Wing provides a valuable resource in the fight against crime. These helicopters should not be sitting around in the hangars waiting for the SAPS to decide who should be given a contract to maintain them. They need to be in the sky tracking down the criminals who terrorise our communities.
Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police