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Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Community Safety is using social media to highlight laws that will be implemented against public drinking and walking under the influence of alcohol and passengers found to be drinking alcohol in a moving or stationary vehicle on a public road.
“As a general rule we should act to discourage members of the public from committing these crimes in the belief that law enforcement cannot be meted out,” the department said on Facebook.
It said these were illegal and arrestable offences.
Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) chairman Howard Dembovsky agrees that being drunk in public is unacceptable and is aware that intoxicated pedestrians account for a high proportion of people killed and injured on our roads, but said the JPSA did not agree that giving such people a criminal record did anything other than ensure people would become unemployable.
“Given the fact that most people who walk under the influence of alcohol come from poorer communities, it is unfathomable that we should be seeking to completely preclude them from gaining employment due to having a criminal record against their name,” said Dembovsky.
For passengers who were caught drinking in a vehicle, the same applied, he added.
He said there were other consequences to this law. The first was that more people stood the chance of being arrested, as the law had no requirement for any breath or blood sample to gain a conviction for any of the offences in the Gauteng Liquor Act.
Dembovsky said it was more than likely that an admission of guilt fine of R300 would be issued against those found guilty of drinking or being intoxicated in public. But the paying of the fine would still mean a criminal record.
In February this year, the then Gauteng commissioner of police, Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros, issued a provincial instruction to cease arresting and detaining people for “B” crimes, which included drinking and/or being intoxicated in public.
This was in response to a “flood of indefensible civil claims against the SAPS”, said Dembovsky.
A sudden move to implement 10-year-old legislation would improve conviction rates but would have a negative effect on the public, said Dembovsky. “Such businesses as the ‘party buses’ hired to corporates will also have to cease operations lest their patrons get arrested for violating the Gauteng Liquor Act,” he said.
South Africans Against Drunk Driving head Caro Smit said the move was “a silly and pointless exercise”.
Smit believes that traffic police should be concentrating on screening and prosecuting drunk drivers, and if pedestrians are found to be drunk, they should be taken to a place of safety to sober up and not be put in a police cell.
Smit also said traffic police should have breathalysers in their vehicles to test motorists at the scenes of crashes.