South African police officers are said to be using their own cars for official duties after a spare parts shortage led to many squad vehicles being taken off the roads.
Police stations are being left without roadworthy vehicles after the Pretoria High Court cancelled a 1.96 billion rand ($173m; £108m) contract to supply spare parts to the service, the Mail and Guardian newspaper says. According to a report by the paper's amaBhungane investigative journalism team, about one fifth of police stations are already badly affected by breakdown-related vehicle shortages, with some officers being forced to use their own cars for police work.
The court ruling says that the two companies which won the tender process would be "incapable" of fulfilling the obligations, with Judge Lötter Wepener ordering that the Autozone company - which has supplied parts to the police service for the past 13 years - be immediately reinstated. However, the prospect of an appeal means that police stations have been told which companies, if any, they should approach for vehicle parts. As a result, about 1,000 police cars are off the road in the Eastern Cape alone, shadow police minister Dianne Kohler Barnard claimed.
The shortage of police vehicles comes at a bad time with official statistics showing a sharp increase in violent crime, including murder and "carjackings", the Mail and Guardian said. One unnamed station commander said the situation would only get worse as Christmas approached.