A former national traffic police chief has blamed the authorities for the annual national road carnage and the “abysmal” deployment strategy of law enforcement that has failed to deal with the crisis.
David Tembe – an ex traffic chief both at Joburg metro police and the National Traffic Police (NTP) – said the glaring missing link in the management of road safety has been the absence of effective enforcement by traffic police.
Tembe resigned from his post at NTP last year, frustrated over lack of resources to discharge normal duties effectively and the failure of a proper plan to tackle the deaths.
This week, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters released the preliminary festive season road death toll figures which showed that at least 1 376 people died on the roads between December 1 and January 7.
The minister said for the period under review there were 1 147 crashes nationally with 1 376 fatalities.
The minister emphasised that these were preliminary figures because all deaths within 30 days of an accident must still be added, in line with international practice.
During the same period last year there were almost 1 600 deaths in 1 247 accidents.
Yesterday, Tembe said authorities have been hiding under the excuse of insufficient capacity, resources and pointing fingers at driver behaviour.
“Can you imagine police blaming criminals for increasing crime?” he asked.
Tembe said it did not require science to figure out how road fatalities could be tackled.
“Unlike crime, road fatalities do not migrate, they happen on the same routes. You know exactly where the problem is so somebody must be held accountable,” he said.
A positive police culture driven by professionalism and devoid of corrupt practices was needed.
He said the duty of traffic officers was to enforce the law and come up with innovative strategies to reduce the number of deaths on the roads.
“We must have score-cards and there must be deliverables on the death toll.
“If you are an accountable traffic chief you must say this year ‘I am going to reduce fatalities by this much margin and achieve that’.”
Tembe said the minister must look at the leadership of traffic policing and demand that traffic chiefs submit quarterly reports on road death reduction and strategies to deal with the problem. He said there was no “fear factor” among motorists for traffic police because they know law enforcement is not effective.
The absence of a centralised approach to achieving efficiency in law enforcement was a huge problem.
“You have metro cops in Joburg and Ekurhuleni that have a radio system but the two cannot even talk to each other over the system if they have to pull together to deal with a reckless driver going across their territories,” he explained.
“The Road Traffic Management Corporation has a toll- free number where they encourage motorists to report bad driving but they don’t have a communication line with provinces. What’s the point of you reporting a reckless driver in Polokwane if no one is going to to stop the vehicle?”
The authorities had to acknowledge that the death of so many South Africans on the roads was a national disaster and that it was possible to address the situation, he said.
- Saturday Star