Cape Town -
Police say their vehicles are regularly blocked at the tollgate on Chapman’s Peak Drive – in spite of an agreement between the provincial government and toll operators which allows them free access.
But the company that manages the toll says this is not true.
The issue was highlighted at the weekend when police officers say they were blocked when responding to a reported theft at the drive’s main lookout point on Sunday.
Iranian tourists who had R20 000 in cash stolen from their car complained to the Cape Argus about slow police response time.
They said police officers arrived on the scene nearly three hours after the theft was reported. By that time there was little hope of arresting the thief, who a witness saw fleeing with two bags.
Hout Bay station commissioner Colonel Bongani Mtakati defended the police when contacted by the Cape Argus on Tuesday, saying that Entilini Operations, which manages the toll road, had blocked his officers from entering Chapman’s Peak because they could not pay the requisite R36 toll.
Entilini manager Mark Jacobs said on Monday that police vehicles on official duty needed to present a printed voucher to access Chapman’s Peak Drive. In an emergency, exceptions would be made to allow police unconditional access.
“But this does not happen,” Mtakati exclaimed on Tuesday.
“We at the station are so fed up and frustrated. On Wednesday I needed to travel to Muizenberg to attend a cluster meeting. I was in a marked vehicle, in uniform and in possession of a voucher. They denied me access because they said I needed a date stamp on the voucher. I have never heard of that before.”
Mtakati said a number of his colleagues had had similar experiences in recent weeks.
Sanele Nyoka, head of the provincial Transport Ministry, confirmed that denial of access to emergency vehicles was an issue.
“Finally, last year there was an agreement with Entilini management that the fees for emergency vehicles would be waived. That is why we find reports to the contrary to be rather puzzling,” he said.
Mark van der Heever, spokesman for the provincial Health Department, said emergency vehicles had not had a problem at the toll plaza.
“Our emergency vehicles have fleet and toll cards to gain access at tollgates/booths.
“If our emergency vehicles are blocked we will investigate why they are blocked and in turn put alternative measures in place to ensure that they are not blocked. It has not yet been registered as a problem.”
In a report-back from Entilini to Nyoka’s office on Tuesday, Jacobs maintained that on Sunday the police vehicle responding to the theft was given a “day pass” to enter Chapman’s Peak Drive.
“Within three minutes the police vehicle returned to the plaza heading back in the direction of Hout Bay,” he said. “The... driver handed the day pass back to the north-bound toll collector.”
The police later returned, and met tour operator Alahuddiyn Ahmed in the toll area’s parking lot.
“Mr Ahmed then drove out of the parking lot and entered the south-bound lane, with the police vehicle following behind him... The police vehicle was given a day pass again to facilitate the free passage,” Jacobs said.
Mtakati contested this version, saying the police were in fact blocked at the tollgate.