Mbabane – Extra staff has been added to help out in re-opened police posts countrywide.
Police posts, which were grounded over a year ago in November 2022 at the height of attacks waged against police officers, were re-opened three months ago after the Royal Police Service attended to certain challenges that were making the facilities vulnerable to criminal elements.
Police sources disclosed that apart from the staffing adjustments, the police service was also trying hard to boost the police posts with equipment like motor vehicles in order to ensure that the facilities were effective in the communities which they serve.
There are over 20 of such facilities which act as subsidiaries for particular police stations spread across the country which had remained inactive for a period spanning over 12 months. The closure of the police posts followed a spate of attacks which were either waged by criminal elements or suspected subversive activities around the year 2022. During one of the attacks police officers were shot at and guns were stolen.
This undesirably crippled the country’s criminal justice system as the police posts closed their counters to the public. This happened soon after the attack which was carried out at Dumako police post. The incident left one person dead and a police officer fighting for his life.
The attack in question was followed by the burning of two others in the Manzini region.
Although the closures were made out of security concerns, communities which had their police posts closed felt the decision had made their areas unsafe. Residents at the time felt that the decision to close the police posts had dealt them a heavy blow as they soon experienced a surge of crime, apart from the security threat that was engendered by the volatile political situation at the time.
The recent re-opening of the police posts brought a sigh of relief to the communities which had struggled with crime for over a year. Winning back the confidence of the affected residents was the fact that the police posts reopened with added staff, which the communities feel will help address the problem of crime which had risen to alarming levels.
“Oh, yes, the local police post has been reopened. An interesting thing is that more staff has been added and a motor vehicle has also been allocated. We hope this will help in arresting crime which had started to trouble the area,” remarked an interviewed businessman.
Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Senior Superintendent Phindile Vilakati confirmed the re-opening of certain police posts. She said the re-opening of the posts happened after the police service addressed challenges that were uniquely relevant to each of the affected facilities.
It should be noted that before the decision was made to take away police officers from police posts it had been reported that one of the attacked posts, being Dumako in the Shiselweni region, and others located nearby were understaffed and ill-equipped to fight crime in selected areas. Residents had disclosed that officers stationed at the police posts were so ill-equipped they couldn’t carry out their work in the manner that had been expected of them.
For instance, it had been revealed that the police posts had no vehicles assigned to them, and officers were always forced to seek assistance from Hlatikulu Police Station whenever the need arose to utilise one. Hlatikulu is located no less than 25km from each of the three police posts.
When Dumako police post was invaded in October 2022 a civilian life was lost and two weapons were reportedly stolen. Residents later disclosed that at the time the police post was understaffed and there was the belief that this may have been a factor that was used by the attackers to carry out their operation with ease. Only two police officers were said to have been present on the night of the attack, while a tractor driver employed at a nearby depot of the ministry of agriculture was caught in the crossfire and got killed in the process. Then, the residents had said they feared that even if all the officers stationed at the police post were present on the night in question they could have still been easily wiped out because there was usually a few of them.
It was further learnt that the officers stationed at the identified police posts were at times forced to either walk to crime scenes or to wait for a day or even more in order to get a motor vehicle, or specialised personnel from the nearby police station.
A source had disclosed that most of the time when a report about crime came in, officers were left with no choice but to either wait for assistance from other police stations or members of the public.
The source made an example of a robbery incident, where officers could not process the crime scene on time because specialised personnel had to be sourced from other police stations, which also did not have a readily available vehicle. In the end, the investigation was left in the hands of members of the area’s community policing forum, who were also underequipped.
The police service’s communications office had also conceded that the police service had been facing challenges regarding transport, which was attributed to many factors, including breakdowns and government’s fiscal position.