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At a stretch, one could understand the police minister speeding to a major crime scene. His flashing blue lights and pushing aside of other motorists may be appropriate in an emergency.
But the Minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu – what could possibly justify her rush? A mining disaster would not, because its victims would take long hours, even days, to extract. Yet Shabangu tops the list, so far, of speeding cabinet members.
Her vehicle accumulated R64 060 in fines in three financial years, according to a response to a parliamentary question. This works out to more than R1 700 a month – a lot of haste.
She is one of several of our government leaders who often flout speed limits, claiming pressing appointments. The frequency of their offences firmly points, though, to poor time or diary management. It also suggests a sense in the cabinet that their time is more important than those of other road users, who are usually in a hurry too.
There is also the widespread suspicion that their privilege of preference on our roads, on the pretext of urgent government business, has turned into an executive adornment. It is an abuse that will not be helped by the announcement by the Justice Department last week that all ministerial speeding fines would be pardoned.
Proving that a minister’s car sped without due cause would be very hard to do. Besides, who would have the authority or inclination to interrogate the proffered excuses or obfuscation? No matter the explanations, the question stands: What is that urgent about mineral resources? Or energy, for that matter? And how much speed do farms, forests and fisheries merit?
Ministerial speeding sends an unwelcome message to the nation – almost as bad as KwaZulu-Natal MEC Meshack Radebe showing solidarity with his driver and his minder who were fined last week for crimes committed during a dangerous bullying episode on the N3.