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Johannesburg - It was the meticulous work of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department’s (JMPD) Alcohol and Drug Evidence Centre in Dube, Soweto, that nailed Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye and Themba Tshabalala and led to their convictions.
The careful screening process, taking of saliva swabs, drawing of blood and careful recordings by metro police officer Wilhelmina Mojela played a large role in their murder and drug-abuse convictions.
Mojela was on duty the day Maarohanye and Tshabalala were brought into the Dube centre.
Maarohanye and Tshabalala were tested for drugs immediately after the incident.
Mojela did not recognise them, she said, and treated them like she did any other suspect.
“I have never heard of Jub Jub. It was only after I conducted all the tests and he was taken away that my colleagues told me who he was,” she said on Monday.
Mojela used a drug testing kit the city has been using for a year.
JMPD director Gerrie Gerneke said the new sophisticated drug and alcohol testing systems in place in the city were leading to a large number of successful convictions.
“Had this incident happened a few years ago, they may have got away with it because our drug testing methods which we have now were not in place. We have meticulous systems in place, and specially trained people, in which everything is strictly recorded, almost minute by minute, in front of witnesses and the suspect, and this evidence is produced in court and often makes or breaks cases,” he said.
Gerneke praised Mojela, saying it was her professionalism in court and the way she stood firm in the face of questioning by lawyers on the manner in which the drug tests were done that led to the 25-year sentences for the pair.
Gerneke took The Star on a visit to the centre. Sergeant Mike Botolo, who runs the centre, explained the procedure from when a suspect is stopped at a road block.
“Anyone, whether suspected of drinking and driving or not, can be stopped.
“Our officers usually can see whether a person is under any influence. We urge younger officers not to do the breathalyser tests on the spot if a person is blatantly drunk or out of control. It is better to take the suspect straight to the testing centre,” he said.
However, officers do carry breathalysers and can use them. If readings are above 0.024, the suspect will be taken to the closest testing centre by the arresting officer.
There he or she must undergo a saliva test, using an unused testing kit which is opened in front of the suspect and the investigating officer. This tests for drugs including speed, crack, ecstasy, tik/cat, cocaine, dagga, heroin, amphetamines and methamphetamines.
Should the suspect refuse permission for the saliva test, officers can take swabs off his or her cellphone, the steering wheel or gear lever of the vehicle or any item handled by the suspect.
“Traces of drugs are always found on people’s hands if they have been using,” he said.
The results are recorded, with the time of each step taken, and placed back into the same testing kit which has a number, and which is then sealed with a new, numbered seal, in front of the suspect and arresting officer.
If drugs are found from the saliva test, the suspect is moved into a next-door room where a registered nurse draws blood, again using a sealed kit which is resealed after the test in front of the suspect and the arresting officer.
“It is a simple prick and is not invasive in any way. We have medication on hand for asthmatics, so there is no excuse,” he said.
All the tests have to be carried out within two hours of the arrest.
Once all the paperwork is filled in, the suspect is taken to the closest prison where he may get bail, depending on the level of the blood count, or whether he was involved in an accident. The minimum bail is R1 500.
Prosecutors are also at the centres to take the paperwork and monitor the cases. If suspects do not get bail, they will be detained until their first court appearance.
The JMPD has three such drug and alcohol testing centres - in Dube, Joburg and Randburg. A new one is planned for Midrand.
Gerneke said the centres would be widely used over the festive season. “If caught under the influence, people will not get away with it and should take an example from the Maarohanye and Tshabalala cases,” he said.