Diepsloot Police Station... finally open after eight years
Johannesburg - Eight years later and over double the initial budget allowance and finally, the Diepsloot Police Station has opened its doors.
The police station was built in response to the community's call for better service delivery. Diepsloot residents complained that the area was serviced by the Erasmia Police Station in Pretoria, 45 kilometres away. They complained that the metro police department and fire station, which had only been built in 2007, was not sufficiently equipped to deal with safety and criminal issues. In 2009, Diepsloot was hit by widespread service delivery protests, labour strikes and xenophobia.
In response to residents, the Department of Public Works said it would embark on an "era of renewal" in which the biggest police station -- in terms of rand value -- would be built in Diepsloot West. At the time, then National Deputy Minister of Public Works Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said an emerging contractor would undertake the construction. However, soon after ground was broken, construction came to a halt in 2010 over a legal battle with the construction company.
In a statement on Friday, the South African Police Service said: "The new police station will bring permanent policing services to … Diepsloot, and will ensure that an effective front-line service is rendered to all members of the community in need of police services."
The project, which was estimated to cost R59 million in 2007, was only half completed by October 2013. By the time it was opened on Friday, the cost had escalated to R105 million. In December last year, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi put the blame on the court battle with the construction company for the delay.
Diepsloot is a largely informal area. According to the 2011 census it has a population of just under 240,000 people, but government suggests that over half a million people, mostly impoverished African families live there.
Service delivery to the area is notoriously poor and it is common to find sewage running downhill, blocked public toilets and streets where the tar has all but completely eroded away.
The new police station, however, hopes to address some of the social issues the township faces. Examination rooms and victim support facilities, together with a well outfitted crime reporting area and detective wing promises to support residents needs. There are also talks about finding more officers to staff the precinct.
Diepsloot has a long association with rape, robbery and murder. In 2009, it was at the center of protest action surrounding foreigners in the country who had been accused of taking local's jobs.
The dense number of shacks in any one of Diepsloot's 13 extensions spreads fear among the law-abiding residents who experienced being attacked in dark alleys where opportunists lurk.
The victims are either girls or women with no option but to walk to their destination when it is not bright out. A lack of working street lamps makes it easy for perpetrators to hide without a chance of getting caught.
The Diepsloot Police Station has its work cut out. Government claims to have received the message from the community to stage more patrols and protect victims against community pressure to drop charges and withdraw cases. While it is uncertain what the approach to policing the area will be, it is certain that if residents are unhappy, they will storm the police station to demand better delivery of service.