“People who have money or power seem to be able to pay their way out of everything in this country.”
That was the comment on Friday from South Africans Against Drunk Driving (Sadd), who have challenged the R10 000 fine handed out to radio DJ Gareth Cliff, after he pleaded guilty in the Pretoria Regional Court on Thursday to driving at 182km/h in a 120km/h zone.
Sadd’s founder, Caro Smit, called the fine a “mere slap on the wrist”, asking “what’s R10 000 to Gareth Cliff?” .
Smit said Cliff added insult to injury when he walked out of the court smiling and also when he changed his profile picture to Top Gear’s, The Stig, just after his arrest.
“Many young people listen to him, including his ‘Phuza Thursday’ when he tells people to go out and party,” said Smit.
She highlighted that, under the National Road Act, anyone caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 30km/h (urban areas) or 40km/h should have his/her licence suspended.
“We understand that a magistrate may use his discretion, but sometimes judgments need to be challenged.
“Excessive speed is a problem in this country and 14 000 people die on our roads every year. South Africa has fantastic laws, but they are just not implemented,” said Smit.
Cliff was caught on the R21 freeway in Gauteng on his way home from OR Tambo International Airport, driving over 180km/h in a 120km/h zone. On Friday his agent, Rina Broomberg, defended Cliff, saying he was embarrassed by the incident and has taken it very seriously.
“He was stone cold sober and was found guilty for speeding and not reckless driving. He did not deny it,” she said.
She added that Cliff is a strong advocate against drunk driving and has done much pro bono work for the “Drive Alive” campaign and is a patron of the Headway Clinic for brain injuries, where many patients are treated due to car accidents.
In court on Thursday, magistrate Desmond Nair highlighted the law which states that in cases where the speed limit has been exceeded by 40km/h, a motorist could be automatically suspended from driving for six months – unless the accused could provide the court with exceptional reasons why this should not be applied.
Cliff’s lawyer submitted an affidavit which stated he was a first offender with no other cases against him, he had not been involved in any accidents and required his licence to perform his daily duties. It also stated he was in a position to pay a fine.
The magistrate ruled on the merits of the case.