Durban - Speed kills is the slogan punted by government officials as part of their Arrive Alive campaign and which drivers are urged to follow.
But it appears that senior politicians in KwaZulu-Natal – or at least their drivers – are not listening to their own advice or backing their own campaigns and are not paying fines.
KZN’s premier, MECs and police commissioner have had almost R65 000 in traffic fines effectively written off due to non-payment, and 11 warrants of arrest crumpled up for lack of enforcement.
Furthermore, they still owe more than R79 000 in fines incurred in their names.
Two warrants of arrest are still active for Premier Zweli Mkhize after one of his vehicles was snapped by traffic cameras – either for speeding or running a red robot – on two late-night occasions in the past two years.
Traffic records also show that a warrant was issued to Mkhize in 2002, but withdrawn after the two-year period for enforcement of a warrant had lapsed. Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo also escaped a warrant in 2002, while Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu survived an arrest warrant in 2003. Finance MEC Ina Cronje has had three warrants of arrest cancelled and Education MEC Senzo Mchunu five.
KZN government spokesman Cyril Madlala defended Mkhize and his MECs, saying that the function of transporting them was the responsibility of the South African Police Services.
“When members of the executive council took the oath of office they undertook to uphold the constitution and the laws of the country. The premier’s view on paying fines is that we should all abide by the law and take full responsibility for our actions,” he said.
But the traffic records tell another story.
Documents seen by The Mercury show that, dating back to 1998, Mkhize and the MECs and police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni have incurred traffic fines amounting to R166 885, but have only paid R12 830. A total of R64 435 remains “stagnate”, which means it is no longer enforceable.
Transport Department spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said the Road Traffic Act stated that if a warrant for a violation was not effected in two years, it was cancelled.
He said the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) addressed issues of outstanding fines and warrants during roadblocks, but also appealed to the public to pay fines as this was “in the best interests of all of us in the province”.
Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi explained that although a fine older than two years was not simply “written off”, non-payment led to the issuing of a warrant of arrest which, if not effected within two years, could no longer be enforced. RTI officials told The Mercury that they did not enforce fines older than two years.
Msomi said roadblocks, house calls for execution of warrants and an increase in the number of people serving summonses were among the steps metro police were taking to ensure enforcement.
When asked why the premier and MECs had allowed fines to lapse, Madlala said they could not be expected to recall specific details around the payment of each fine or alleged violation of traffic laws dating back as far as 14 years.
“Analysing the premier’s schedule for every hour over this period to determine which police officer drove which car, the circumstances around the alleged commission of a specific offence and establish reasons for the non-payment of which fine, is an option the premier or any of the MECs might not be inclined to pursue ahead of matters of service delivery.”
The biggest offender, with an accumulated total of R32 700 in fines is Agriculture, Environmental Affairs MEC Meshack Radebe who, incidentally, defended the actions of two VIP protection unit policemen last week found guilty of negligent driving which resulted in a collision near Ashburton in 2008.
Radebe is followed by Mchunu and Mkhize with R29 130 and R27 000 in fines respectively.
Ravi Pillay, Human Settlements and Public Works MEC, has the best payment record, with only R400 of R6 550 “stagnate”.
The remaining R6 150 has been paid.
“If I have a fine, I have to pay it. I am generally driven by a driver, but I try to set high standards for them,” Pillay said.
Lennox Mabaso, spokesman for Nomusa Dube, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, said the fact that Dube had no “stagnate” fines and owed R4 300, was a “sign of her character”.
“The MEC always endeavours to ensure all traffic fines are paid… 99 percent of the time it is her drivers or family members who [incurred the fines].”
Ngobeni owes R1 200, while R5 600 worth of fines since 2004 were written off after non-payment in two years.
Police spokesman Vincent Mdunge said, however, that she had not contravened any traffic laws as only the drivers who transported her for official purposes could account for their violations.
He explained that when members of the protection unit, while on duty, broke traffic laws such as exceeding speed limits, they needed to explain the reasons for the violation.
“An informed decision is then taken upon submission of a written representation whether a particular fine is to be written off, reduced or even cancelled.”
Traffic records show that a combined total of R10 020 worth of fines or warrants were cancelled or withdrawn after such representations or court appearances.
Last week, Mkhize’s driver, Maziwinkosi Petros Gwala, was arrested in Mtunzini on the north coast for speeding, drunk driving and being in possession of a firearm. He appeared in court and was released on R1 000 bail.
Mkhize was not in the car at the time.
Derek Luyt, spokesman for the Public Service Accountability Monitor, questioned why there had been no enforcement of the fines. - The Mercury