Exodus continues from ‘supercop’ unit

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THE STAR

The number of traffic police officers leaving the National Traffic Police Unit continues unabated  nearing almost 50. File photo: Sizwe Ndingane

Johannesburg - The number of traffic police officers leaving the National Traffic Police Unit (NTP) continues unabated – nearing almost 50.

The Star has been told of 26 officers who have resigned from the unit this month and who will be joining the Gauteng Traffic Police. More resignations are expected.

The exodus in the embattled supercop unit started a few months ago.

Its chief, David Tembe, resigned in January, citing a lack of resources to discharge normal day-to-day duties effectively and the continuous interference of acting chief executive Collins Letsoalo. Fifteen other traffic officers resigned at about the same time.

Speaking to The Star on Monday, the frustrated officers who resigned also cited a lack of resources as one of the reasons for leaving the unit, which falls under the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).

An officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “This unit is in shambles. I can’t take it any more. When I got the job, I was so excited because working for NTP is so frustrating. During Easter, we were deployed to other provinces to work on national freeways, but we were not paid for overtime. Instead, we were told to take days off.”

Another officer said: “This unit is just a waste of taxpayers’ money. How do you set up a unit and spend millions on it, but it cannot fulfil its mandate? It’s frustrating for all of us to be going to work, but you know you won’t be able to perform all your duties because of resources.”

The Star sent RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail a detailed e-mail on Friday on the resignation of the officers, but he refused to comment.

When he was contacted by telephone for comment, he said: “Oh, sorry man, no comment for you, bye bye,” before putting down the phone.

Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Dembovsky said it was a crying shame that such a large number of staff had resigned.

He said he was happy that they were going to the Gauteng Traffic Police because they were effective.

“The national traffic intervention unit has not achieved much. I have not seen any intervention unit,” said Dembovsky.

The RTMC has forked out more than R50 million in salaries for the traffic officers.

The unit was launched to much fanfare by former transport minister S’bu Ndebele, but has been dogged by scandals since its establishment.

In January, the troubled intervention unit was effectively without cars of its own, and hired a fleet of 40 cars from Avis because it could not afford to buy its own.

The unit’s fully equipped cars, supplied initially by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), were removed in February, leaving the 200 traffic officers without transport.

Two weeks after Sanral removed the unit’s cars, the SAPS confis-cated the blue lights on the rented vehicles.

Last month, the unit finally bought its own vehicles. But the 33 vehicles still do not have number plate-recognition devices and radio communication, and cannot use high-speed chase equipment.

 

According to the officers, the blue lights and sirens installed in the vehicles were not of good quality.

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