Sanral leaves traffic unit carless

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By SOLLY MAPHUMULO

Johannesburg - The National Traffic Intervention Unit does not have vehicles equipped to target speedsters, drunk drivers and traffic offenders - after the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) took them away.

Sanral dropped a bombshell last week, withdrawing all its cars used by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) officers, who fall under the intervention unit.

More than 200 traffic officers will struggle to carry out their duties because they do not have the required equipment.

The unit was supposed to target speedsters, drunk drivers and other traffic offenders.

Sanral’s massive 4x4s were fitted with a number plate-recognition system.

With this they can scan your number plate as they drive in front of you, pick up all your outstanding traffic fines and road offences, then stop you on the spot.

Sanral had provided the unit with close to 20 vehicles, but the maintenance costs have clearly become too high.

Sources have told The Star that the cars from Sanral were taken away around 6pm on Friday. They also said that in the meantime, the RTMC was going to continue using 20 cars rented from Avis.

“RTMC has extended the contract with Avis. They are also planning to buy their own vehicles. That was discussed today in a meeting,” a source said yesterday.

This comes a week after the unit’s chief, David Tembe, resigned, stating that a lack of resources to effectively discharge normal day-to-day duties, and continuous interference with operations by the chief executive, Collins Letsoalo.

He added there was a lack of support for the unit and no budget allocated to it.

When Letsoalo was contacted for comment, he said: “I can’t comment on leaked information. You guys think I report to you, but I report to Parliament.”

Asked about the withdrawal of cars by Sanral, he also refused to comment.

The traffic officers were using rented cars fitted only with blue lights and no other equipment to enable the officers to carry out their duties.

Letsoalo would not be drawn into explaining how the officers would work with only rented cars, saying: “They are supplementary vehicles.”

Howard Dembovsky, from Justice Project South Africa, said: “To me, this unit is slowly becoming defunct. It’s a crying shame. It never was an intervention unit.”

The unit lacks resources such as cars, two-way radios, handcuffs, and number plate-recognition devices to verify licences.

In a special operations report seen by The Star, the traffic officers said they needed breathalysers, more cars, torches to make them visible at night when pulling over vehicles, two-way radios to communicate and for training, pepper spray and handcuffs.

The report also said that in one of the operations, only 14 officers had three breathalysers that they had to take turns using to test motorists for alcohol levels.

The unit was formed by the RTMC to crack down on drunk driving and to reduce deaths on national roads.

Dembovsky said paying salaries of traffic officers who were unable to perform their duties was “a huge waste of taxpayers’ money”.

A huge waste of money

* On average, traffic officers earn up to R10 800 a month. The RTMC is spending more than R2.16 million a month on salaries at an intervention unit that is unable to perform its duties.

* The unit has more than 200 traffic officers.

* The unit does not have enough handcuffs and torches, there are not enough breathalysers, and no two-way radios for the officers to communicate.

* The officers also need continuous firearm and defensive-driving training.

solly.maphumulo@inl.co.za

The Star

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