That is settled, then: all mortals, be they government leaders, chief executives of billion-rand corporations or floor sweepers, have to start out timeously to reach their destinations on time.
Finally, in magistrate Chris van Vuuren’s court in Pietermaritzburg, reason prevailed and the police VIP Protection Unit received crystal clear guidelines on emergency behaviour in traffic.
For years now, members of that unit and the office-bearers in their charge have clearly mis- understood emergencies. Blue light escorts have been a regular menace, a danger to road users.
But a government lawyer told the court that being late for a meeting did not justify excessive speed; bad planning did not constitute an emergency; and no politician could tell an escort driver to break the rules of the road. Van Vuuren agreed.
VIP drivers could not be a law unto themselves, in his view. Well said: until now, some of them have been behaving as though they were.
The minister or mayor is not the most important person on the highway, nor does he or she have more pressing business than the thousands of others sharing that road. The solution to being late for appointments is simple: set off earlier. Citizens – from the CEO to the sweeper – know this, and there is no reason it should befuddle elected leaders.
Van Vuuren convicted two VIP officers for their involvement in a dangerous skirmish on the N3 four years ago, where a car containing six people ran into oncoming traffic after shots were fired.
The escorts’ punishment is still to be decided. But the SAPS must seriously review the fitness of a policeman who draws his firearm and fires it in a highway altercation. He jeopardised the lives of others because they were running late in fetching an MEC.
Another damning factor police must consider is the court’s blunt rejection of their version of what happened. Should such men have State weapons in their hands?