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Blue light lock-up

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iol nws dec 23 NT Busuku1

INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

A Jeep Grand Cherokee, registered to the Mbizana municipality and used by Mayor Zoleka Busuku, stands at the Park Rynie Road Traffic Inspectorate office after it was impounded in August. PICTURE: JEFF WICKS

Durban - A plucky South Coast traffic cop has locked horns with speeding VIPs in a move that has seen him impound a pair of luxury SUVs. He is refusing to release them until their illegally installed blue lights are removed.

Chief Provincial Traffic Officer Aboo Aboobaker’s hard-line stance has won the admiration of his subordinates and locals in the South Coast area around Park Rynie, but has seen him clash with municipal officials who want him to release the cars – especially since one belongs to Pondo King Ndamase Ndamase.

The cars were impounded in two separate incidents three months ago when their drivers, one being Ndamase himself, were caught speeding and using blue lights.

Aboobaker has instructed his officers to adopt a no-nonsense approach towards traffic offenders, especially blue-light abusers.

Things came to a head in August when Aboobaker’s men stopped a Jeep Grand Cherokee registered to the Mbizana Municipality.

It was impounded for speeding and using blue lights on the N2 near Park Rynie while transporting Mbizana district mayor Zoleka Busuku. Busuku’s SUV was travelling at 152km/h and using blue lights to move through traffic.

Her driver, who was not authorised to use the lights, was arrested.

Busuku purportedly told traffic officers she had been on her way to King Shaka International Airport and denied her driver had exceeded the speed limit.

She said in the Eastern Cape mayors were allowed to use blue lights in their official vehicles.

Two weeks later, West Pondoland King Ndamase Ndamase’s Mercedes-Benz ML 320CDI was impounded by officers for speeding and failing to stop when instructed to.

A high-speed pursuit of the cavalcade ensued to halt the royal procession.

The SUV was clocked travelling at 157km/h and displayed blue lights on the dashboard and on the grille.

Strobe lights were also found in the headlights. On inspection it was found that the king’s vehicle was unauthorised to use blue lights.

The king was rushing his cousin back to the Eastern Cape following a death in the family. The young monarch was also arrested and later released on bail.

The vehicles, collectively valued at more than R1 million, are impounded at the Road Traffic Inspectorate office at Park Rynie. Collectively they have amassed impound fees of about R10 000. The tyres on one are flat.

Approached by the Sunday Tribune this week, Aboobaker declined to comment, but a well-placed source in the department said he was a stubborn man and wouldn’t back down.

“He will not have that kind of nonsense in his area. His officers will adopt the same stance. He doesn’t care who you are, if you are using a public road you will abide by the law,” he said.

“The Road Traffic Act is very clear on this issue. Itdoesn’t matter if you are a politician or a king if you are breaking the law.

“Unless you are a police or traffic officer executing your duties, or have a mandate to use emergency lights, you are in contravention of the law,” the source said.

“The cars both still have the blue lights fitted and until they are removed, they will be staying here.

“The mayor tried to get lawyers involved and have her SUV towed away, but that is not going to happen,” he said.

Busuku said she had no idea why her car was still in the pound.

“I am not sure why it is still there and I think it is against the law that they still won’t give me the vehicle back.”

She said she was now forced to use other cars owned by her municipality and “sometimes even my own car”.

Mlamli Ndamase, spokesman for the king, said that because the impounded vehicle was registered to the Eastern Cape Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the onus was on the state to get the car released.

“The cars were given to all the kings by the government. They must go and fetch it. We have told them where it is,” he said.

Ndamase said that the king had a driver who was authorised to use blue lights, but he had died.

The monarch had been caught driving himself to the Eastern Cape from Durban before a new driver was appointed.

“The king was in a rush and he was caught with the lights on early in the morning.

“Now he is driving his VW Amarok or his Jeep, the ones that he owns. They are not outfitted with blue lights. He is like a commoner now,” Ndamase said.

Only police officers, traffic officers and members of the SANDF may use blue lights in the case of an emergency and while executing their duties.

In May, a provincial government directive banned the use of blue lights by mayors and municipal officials.

Transport MEC Willies Mchunu ruled that only the premier, judge president and MECs were authorised to use blue lights – in emergencies.

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said that legislation governing the use of blue lights was clear. “These people, like all others, need to respect the rule of law.” - Sunday Tribune


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