R2500 for a driving licence

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IOL mot pic may21 Lingelethu West Licence

INLSA

New evidence has emerged about ongoing corruption at the Lingelethu West Traffic Department. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Aspirant drivers in Khayelitsha, near Cape Town are being offered ways to cheat their way to a learner's or driving licence by paying anything from R2500 for a “Stay Soft” to ensure a pass.

Outsiders who apparently rely on contacts inside the Lingelethu West Traffic Department are also offering guaranteed passes for a learner's for just R1100. For an extra R350, a closer date can be arranged.

These deals were revealed by a number of sources, including one woman who described how she bribed her way to her learner's and driving licence three years ago. Another was asked to pay a bribe by an outside contact outside the station this year, but declined to do so.

PASS GUARANTEED

Community news network GroundUp then went undercover and was taken through the steps to secure a licence by an outside contact. This connection was also confident he could secure an earlier learner's licence date.

The contact told the journalist that a pass was “guaranteed” and that the journalist needn't learn for the test. Even if she simply sat down without writing the test, she would pass the test. He said that “someone will write the answers for you”.

During a face-to-face meeting, which was recorded, the outside contact asked the journalist if she had a problem with her eyes, because he could organise for the eye-test to be bypassed. He cautioned that the one thing that could result in a fail is if “the boss” walks into the testing room.

EXPLAIN AND GUIDE

The “Stay Soft” service for R2500 ensures the traffic officer will explain and guide the applicant through the test and warn when the person is doing something wrong and explain how to correct it.

The officer inside the car will also explain how to avoid hitting any poles during the parking test. But because officials monitor the cameras in the testing yard, if the learner hits the cone or makes a mistake in front of a camera and has to be failed, officials will assist to get an earlier date to redo the test.

The journalist was then directed to a specific official inside the department to set a date for the learner's test.

LICENCE SCAM

These revelations emerge after ongoing attempts by authorities to crack down on corruption. In 2007 a traffic officer from Khayelitsha was suspended over an alleged learner's licence scam. Two other officials were also suspected of being involved. At the time the SA Police Service raided the Khayelitsha traffic department, where dozens of boxes containing fake learner's licences were seized.

Kelvyn Visser, the city's deputy traffic chief for licensing, admitted it was difficult to detect when applicants were coached, “but we are in the process of erecting cameras at all our centres to observe this type of corruption. It would however still remain a challenge to monitor this type of corruption all the time on the road test”.

A management representative must also accompany examiners on driving tests and conduct ad hoc observations to ensure compliance.

AD HOC CHECKS

Regarding learner's licences, he said a management representative was appointed at every centre to check and report incidents of corruption.

“They must inspect all documentation including test reports daily to ensure compliance with relevant legislation. They must also from time to time conduct ad hoc checks in the learner's class and check on IDs and general compliance issues,” Visser said.

The city's executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, said there had been sporadic incidents of corruption at city traffic departments over the last few years. In the last six months, three traffic officials were suspended for changing bookings without permission.

One member resigned before his hearing commenced while the disciplinary hearings of the other two staff members are still in progress.

“We are investigating a matter at Joe Gqabi (Philippi) where it is alleged that a testing officer conducted a test shorter than was required in terms of the regulations,” Bosman added.

He urged members of the public with information on corruption to call the city's fraud hotline at 0800 323 130.

Mr X, Mr Y and R2500 will get you a driving licence - even if you 'fail' the test.

Attempts to clean up corruption at the Lingelethu-West traffic station in Khayelitsha appear to be failing. Groundup went undercover and recorded an offer of a bribe by an outside operator, and also spoke to others who were either offered a licence, or who had bribed their way to being allowed behind the wheel.

You can cheat your way to a driving licence for as little as R2500, according to outside operators who arrange deals with insiders at the department.

Called a “Stay Soft”, this “service” will ensure the traffic officer testing you on the day of your licence will explain and guide you verbally while you drive, and warn you of what you're doing wrong and how to correct your driving to avoid hitting the cones.

Officials sometimes monitor the part of the driving test that takes place at the centre, so if you hit the cones, you fail.

Officials at the department will assist you to get an early date to redo the test.

In the part of the test that takes place on the roads outside the centre you can make errors, such as going through a stop street, and you will not be failed.

For R1100 you can buy your way to a learner's licence. For an extra R350, an early date can be arranged.

These bribes were explained to GroundUp by a number of sources, including one woman who described in detail how she bribed her way to her learner's and driving licences in Khayelitsha three years ago, and another who was asked to pay a bribe by a contact outside the station this year, but declined.

Going undercover, a GroundUp journalist went about acquiring a learner's and driving licence. The journalist phoned the number given to her from a woman who had been offered a bribe recently. A man, Mr X for the purposes of this article, answered. He insisted on a face-to-face meeting outside his house in Ilitha park, a well-off section of Khayelitsha.

ON THE RECORD

At this meeting, which the journalist recorded, Mr X confirmed how the process worked. He first asked the journalist if she had a problem with her eyes, because he could arrange for the eye test to be bypassed. Since the journalist did not have an eye problem, she declined this offer. He then phoned someone from his cellphone at the Khayelitsha station and, speaking Afrikaans (Mr X is Xhosa-speaking), arranged for the journalist to write a learner's exam. Mr X asked the person to look for the earliest date to write a learner's test. The earliest date was next month. Mr X complained that the date was too late, and the person said he would let him know if an earlier date became available.

Mr X told the journalist that he would inform his contact person about her and he would not fail her. He said a pass was “guaranteed”.

“SOMEONE WILL WRITE THE ANSWERS FOR YOU.”

He explained that the journalist would not even need to learn for the learner's test, and that even if she simply sat down without writing the test, she would pass the test. He said that “someone will write the answers for you”. He cautioned that the one thing that could result in failure was if “the boss” walked into the testing room. Then the deal could not proceed on that day, but a new date “as soon as possible” would be organised.

Mr X explained that the journalist would have to pay him R1100 outside the traffic station after getting her learner's. If he succeeded in getting an earlier date than June for her, it would cost an additional R350.

Mr X also explained the process of getting the driving licence, including how the person giving the test would help the journalist pass. He explained that the price of this bribe was R2500.

Mr X also offered driving lessons.

Mr X advised the journalist to go to the Khayelitsha traffic department and book a date to write the learner's, but insisted that before making a payment she should call him on his cellphone first. The journalist went to the traffic department, filled in the application, took an eye test and provided ID photos.

She then called Mr X, who told her to enter through “the yellow door” and go to the man at the third booth. Mr X gave the name of the person behind the booth, who in this article we call Mr Y. Mr Y was uneasy and asked how she knew his name. She told him Mr X had sent her. Then Mr Y's cellphone rang. He answered it and it was clear from the conversation that he was speaking to Mr X. He then smiled and his attitude changed. The date was set for next month, but Mr X is working to get the journalist a closer date.

FRUSTRATION WITH THE SYSTEM

The 30-year-old Mfuleni woman who got her driving licence illegally three years ago said that she did so out of frustration with the official system. Every time she failed her learner's, she had to reapply for another date which came six or more months later. She claimed that the system was designed to encourage people to resort to bribery.

“This carried on for about three years and cost me a lot of money,” she explained.

She wrote her learner's at multiple traffic departments, but always failed. She got so frustrated that she found someone linked to the Caledon station who guaranteed her a definite pass, for about R1 200. This involved being given the answers on a piece of paper and then being driven to the traffic department in Caledon, where she filled in the answers and passed.

She booked her driving lessons and moved to the next step of acquiring a driving licence. She spent about R3 000 on driving lessons. She booked her driving test, but failed three times, travelling as far as the Malmesbury traffic department.

“At Malmesbury, the traffic officer told me my car had rolled back when it did not. At that point I knew I'd have to acquire my licence illegally yet once again.”

THE WHOLE PACKAGE

In Khayelitsha, she found a person who promised the whole package: driving lessons and a testing car for about R1800. The contact person worked with a traffic officer at the Khayelitsha traffic department. On the day of her driver's test, the officer monitored her and guided her throughout her test, instructing her on what to do to avoid hitting the cones. “I eventually got my driver's licence and was now a legitimate driver. I was not going to let not having a driver's licence stand in the way of improving my employment prospects,” she explained.

Another woman, Phumeza, 24, passed her learner's licence at the Khayelitsha traffic department in February. Phumeza, who feared having her full identity published, said she would “never take my driver's licence at the Khayelitsha department because I know they will fail me unless I pay a bribe”.

“Without money, it is very difficult.”

She claimed that people stood outside the traffic department and watched who came out of the learner's testing rooms. They then approached and offered a guaranteed pass for a learner's or driving licence.

This happened to her when she wrote her learner's licence. Two men asked if she had passed, and when she said yes, they offered her a guaranteed pass for her driving licence for just R2500, calling it the “Stay Soft” option.

“These guys work together with the traffic officers at the Khayelitsha station to ensure that you pass your driver's test,” she said.

Mandla Majola is a community leader in Khayelitsha and runs the Treatment Action Campaign's office there. He and several other TAC members told GroundUp several stories of bribes being paid to obtain driving licences at Lingelethu-West, but said people were too scared to come forward.

Majola explained: “We are concerned about corruption at the traffic station. In order to pass the driving license test at Lingelethu-West you usually have to bribe your way.”

Some names are not disclosed to protect sources. Groundup did not conclude the corrupt deal as it would mean the journalist would be committing a crime. - Cape Times


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