KwaZulu-Natal -

The deaths of seven aspirant traffic officers in KwaZulu-Natal could have been avoided, the SA National Civic Organisation said on Monday.

“We believe the death(s) of seven people and the hospitalisation of several others could have been avoided if those entrusted with the process had carried out their duties properly,” spokesman Dumisani Mthalane said in a statement.

In an open letter to KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Willies Mchunu, Sanco condemned the province's recruitment process.

“We understand that the officers conducting the selection process had not even applied for permission to use the sports ground where thousands of job seekers congregated.

“We would like to see tough action taken against all those involved in the decisions which have culminated in this tragic event,” Mthalane said.

The seven died during a 4km run, which was part of a fitness test held at the city's Harry Gwala stadium, Pietermaritzburg, on Thursday and Friday. One of the seven allegedly committed suicide.

They had responded to a Road Traffic Inspectorate recruitment drive.

Mchunu suspended all tests for Road Traffic Inspectorate jobs while his office investigated the matter.

Sanco proposed that a memorial service be held for the seven, and that the department pay for their funerals.

Mchunu earlier dismissed calls by the Inkatha Freedom Party for him to resign, describing these as “premature and irrelevant”.

The SA Communist Party in KwaZulu-Natal commended Mchunu for his swift action.

More than 34,000 people had qualified to apply for the 90

advertised trainee posts. A total of 15,600 applicants attended the fitness test on Thursday, and a similar number on Friday. An unknown number of them collapsed due to the heat. Many were taken to hospital.

IFP MPL Blessed Gwala said: “What happened in Pietermaritzburg was a classic display of being power-drunk, to an extent treating ordinary suffering people as subhuman.

“No one in their right mind could in the first place short-list about 35 000 people for just 90 jobs.” - Sapa