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Johannesburg - SAPS members in Gauteng are not happy with the unmarked Avis cars rented and used by the National Traffic Police Intervention Unit to conduct roadblocks and increase visibility.
Insiders told The Star the issues of the blue-light gang and the unmarked Avis vehicles with a Road Traffic Management Corporation logo were discussed at a meeting on Monday.
The unit, which falls under the RTMC and was established in 2011, lacks personnel and does not have vehicles to carry out law enforcement duties.
Insiders said the SAPS was unhappy about the fleet because it was confusing a community terrorised by gangs using blue lights in their cars.
It has also emerged that the SAPS was intending to approach the RTMC to discuss the matter of the Avis vehicles on the freeways because this is seen as complicating blue-light gang investigations.
The RTMC hired a fleet of vehicles from Avis because it cannot afford to buy its own cars for traffic officers to perform their duties. This is despite the R300 million bailout the RTMC received from the Treasury recently.
When The Star contacted RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail to find out whether some of the money from the bailout would be used to purchase well-equipped vehicles for the traffic officers, he said: “Unless you have unearthed any information that suggests there is evidence of any wrongdoing, be it fraudulent or corrupt practices, there is no need to respond to what are essentially operational issues.”
The fleet of 40 vehicles from Avis arrived at the RTMC offices last month.Twenty were sponsored by Avis, but the RTMC paid R235 per vehicle a day for the other 20.
The vehicles do not have the necessary equipment: number plate recognition devices, equipment to read licences, sirens used when pulling over a vehicle on the road as well as radios for traffic officers to communicate if there is a need for back-up.
The vehicles include a Mercedes-Benz Vito, a VW Polo Vivo and Polo 6, a Hyundai H1 kombi van and Toyota Corollas.
A blue-light gang has been targeting motorists across Gauteng in recent months, flashing lights, then pulling them off the road before hijacking them.
A traffic officer from the traffic police intervention unit, who refused to be named for fear of reprisal, said: “A traffic officer must be distinct and not be confused with criminals (the blue-light gang).
“The fact that the vehicles have the RTMC sticker next to the Avis logo does not make them distinct. People don’t even know what the RTMC is.
“And also, having an RTMC logo does not make any sense because it is not a law enforcement agency,” said the officer.
Meanwhile, there were mixed feelings from readers who commented on the article ran in The Star.
Jan Vosloo commented: “I’m certainly not pulling over for a couple of guys in a grey Corolla or Polo, hooting and shouting at me.”
Greg Shark said: “How do motorists differentiate between the blue-light gang and traffic officers? THIS HAS BEEN A BURNING “?” FOR A LONG TIME! Often the cops ARE the blue light gang!”
Another reader responded: “From rent a car to rent a cop. The ANC must be proud.”