Traffic cops’ rent-a-car shame

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avis cars jan 22 THE STAR The National Intervention Unit, which falls under the Road Traffic Management Corporation, has resorted to hiring a fleet of vehicles from Avis to increase police visibility. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Johannesburg - The National Intervention Unit, which falls under the Road Traffic Management Corporation, has resorted to hiring a fleet of vehicles from Avis to increase police visibility.

This is because the unit does not have vehicles.

On Monday, RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail confirmed they had to hire a fleet of 40 vehicles from Avis last month in order to perform law enforcement duties because they did not have enough vehicles.

He said the vehicles arrived on December 10, just before the festive season got under way.

Ismail said 20 vehicles were sponsored by Avis at a rate of R235 per vehicle a day. The vehicles include a Mercedes-Benz Vito, a VW Polo Vivo and Polo 6, a Hyundai H1 kombi van and Toyota Corollas.

Ismail could not say until when the deal was going to run.

Insiders told The Star these vehicles did not have the necessary equipment needed by traffic officers to perform their duties.

The required equipment includes a siren used while pulling over vehicles, a number plate-recognition device, radios for officers to communicate if there is a need for back-up, and equipment to read licences.

Howard Dembovsky, from the Justice Project South Africa, said it was illegal for traffic officers to disobey the speed limit and traffic laws if they were not flashing blue lights used in conjunction with sirens.

“You can’t disregard the traffic laws and road signs, which include robots, if you are using a vehicle that is not marked properly. Officers are required to use both blue lights and sirens,” he said.

Dembovsky added it would have been appropriate for the RTMC to make an announcement, informing the public about the deal with Avis.

He said the Avis logo on the cars stood out, while the RTMC logo looked very dull.

The unit was formed in 2011 and was tasked with co-ordinating law enforcement on the country’s roads. It was established to crack down on drunk driving and corruption, and to reduce deaths on national roads throughout the country. But the unit has been able to operate only in four provinces because of financial constraints.

An insider lamented the unit’s problems.

“If you don’t have a system to read licences, how will you know if the person is using a fake driving licence? The unit does not even have a control room to verify if the licence belongs to that particular motorist.

“So, if siblings look alike, they can simple swop or share a driving licence and go through the roadblock manned by the National Intervention Unit. This is a disgrace because the unit must have something that other units don’t have.”

He said this was a complete waste of time, manpower and resources.

Another member, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the officers had told them how frustrating it was to stand on the freeway unable to execute their duties.

Another unit member said: “How do motorists differentiate between the blue-light gang and traffic officers? Criminals also have access to uniforms.”

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