Prominent citizens should be exemplary role models for our youth, not models of criminality, says Elle Tredoux.
Johannesburg - I thought it was another silly April Fool’s Day Joke when I heard that Bafana Bafana Captain Itumeleng Khune had only been ordered to complete a mere 10-hour community service process as punishment for his speeding and reckless driving charge.
I have now lost all hope of any progress regarding reducing the horrific slaughter on South African roads when the NPA and our courts are obviously not taking seriously the need to curb the carnage with effective punishment. Prominent citizens should be exemplary role models for our youth, but instead many of them seem to be models of criminality in their flashy high-speed killing machines.
In previous correspondence I predicted that the trio of celebrity road-hog traffic offenders namely Steve Hofmeyr, Itumeleng Khune and Julius Malema would all receive slap-on-the -wrist “justice” in our courts, and so it has transpired. Malema escaped justice due to a technicality, Hofmeyr received that lax plea bargained fine and Khune didn’t even have to appear in a courtroom.
The NPA did a deal with his attorney, dropping all charges against him and fashioned the community service travesty. There Is some merit in the Justice Department’s diversion programme which serves to keep youth offenders out of the courts and the prison system, with a sympathetic regimen of corrective supervision and service to the community. But what the NPA doesn’t seem to realise is that many traffic offences are not trivial juvenile offences which can be addressed with empathy, but are serious crimes which cost the lives of thousands of victims despite numerous interventions – and that they should be adequately prosecuted as such.
That deal begs some serious questions of the NPA:
* If I am arrested for speeding can I cite the precedent of the Khune community service and get similar preferential treatment by avoiding a hefty fine or even imprisonment, evading the court process? Or is it a case some animals are more equal than others on the South African animal farm?
* What exactly are the criteria required to receive abnormal leniency from the NPA? Is it another South African example of rich man’s justice whereby expensive lawyers can arrange plea bargains or community service deals for the privileged few while the rest get short shrift?
* Who decides on the length of the community service and what form of service that will ensue? For instance will Khune be required to push papers across a desk in a government office, or will it be something more fitting which would ensure he confronts one of the main consequences of reckless driving and endangerment of the public? Such an appropriate punishment could be cleaning up the blood and gore in a hospital casualty ward or morgue.
When every new transport minister assumes office they all promise a fresh approach of zero tolerance traffic law enforcement on our roads.
When the previous incoming transport minister, Sibusiso Ndebele, made the usual lofty pledges of intent to the public on an SAfm radio interview, he got very angry with me when I called the station and told him that past history would show that they would be empty promises without substance, and we would probably be having the same conversation the following year.
Nothing has changed since then, and the carnage continues to grow exponentially.
All citizens should be equal before the law as the constitution prescribes, and until the NPA concentrates its collective mind to ensuring the traffic laws are enforced by diligent prosecution and effective harsh punishment, without fear nor favour, approximately 14 000 people a year, and rising, will continue to perish on our roads.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.