Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle says the deployment of hundreds of national traffic police across SA is illegal and unlawful and they will only be allowed in the Western Cape under the supervision of local authorities.
Officers attached to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) have been sent to Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga and could be deployed to the Western Cape should the need arise, says the national Transport Department.
But Carlisle will allow them on Western Cape roads only under the supervision of provincial traffic authorities.
He warned today that any arrest by the unit operating on its own would be an opportunity for a lawsuit for unlawful arrest, for which the taxpayer would have to pay.
This week the MEC slammed the 286-member unit, launched nine months ago, as “untrained” and not properly registered, a claim Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele and the RTMC denied today.
Carlisle said: “The National Traffic Policing Unit’s establishment appears to be unlawful on several grounds and there is evidence that they may have been set up as toll road enforcers.”
He had outlined his concerns to the RTMC shareholders’ committee in August 22, but it had not yet responded to this letter, and “follow-up from my office has been ignored”.
The key concerns are:
-The gazetting of the officers’ appointment was only approved five months after implementation by the shareholders’ committee, and then under questionable circumstances.
-The appointment of the acting CEO, who appointed the NTPU officers, was found by the Labour Court to be unlawful, irregular and invalid.
-NTPU officers, some of whom have criminal convictions, were unlawfully appointed, while the issue of firearms was questionable.
-NTPU may have been established as toll fee enforcers for the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
The MEC said that if figures from the RTMC’s acting CEO were correct, it was possible the unit had already arrested hundreds of people elsewhere in the country.
“…If each one of those approximately 250 officers has made only five arrests in the past nine months, and (an) arrest leads to a R1 million settlement, the state is already looking at R1 billion in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.”
Carlisle said the officers also had guns, which might have been illegally issued, and the legal consequences should they shoot anyone in the course of their duties would be severe.
Transport Ministry spokesman Logan Maistry dismissed Carlisle’s claims as unfounded and without substantial proof.
“The National Traffic Police Unit was instituted legally. MEC Carlisle should take his proof to the police for a full investigation. Our main priority now is saving lives and ensuring the country’s roads are safe.”
National traffic police would be sent to the Western Cape “should the need arise”, and the RTMC “does not need any permission from provincial authorities” to do so.
RTMC acting CEO Collins Letsoalo said the unit’s safety strategy this month involved two daily 12-hour shifts and high-impact operations to minimise road deaths.
“We will not be distracted or side-tracked,” said Letsoalo, adding that “comments attributed to (Carlisle) that the NTP is banned from entering the Western Cape are rather unfortunate”.
In terms of the constitution, traffic law enforcement was a national, provincial and local competency, he said.
“There are approximately 2000 provincial traffic officers in the country; at least 15 000 traffic officers are employed by local government; and 286 officers are attached to the NTP. Based on an analysis of high accident frequency locations as well as traffic offence surveys, over the past nine months the NTP has played a key role in implementation of the National Rolling Enforcement Plan, Operation Swara Setagwa, with its zero tolerance of drunk driving, as well as Operation Nomakanjani.”
Over the past three months (September, October and November), more than 3500 public transport and freight drivers have been arrested by the NTPU in joint operations in Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga as part of pre-December holiday traffic law enforcement operations and following Ndebele's instruction that every bus and taxi must be stopped and checked. - Cape Argus