‘Coffin on wheels’ seized

By Mogomotsi Magome And Sapa Time of article published Dec 30, 2011

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No lights, no ignition, worn-out tyres, no speedometer or petrol gauge, hardly any nuts on the wheels and doors falling off when opened.

Yet this 12-seater minibus taxi daily transports 14 passengers on public roads and has clearly been doing so for many years.

The taxi was taken off the road by Gauteng traffic officials in Mabopane on Thursday while transporting passengers from Mabopane Station to Winterveld, north of Pretoria.

It was one of the increasing number of vehicles being taken off the road by traffic officials across the country.

Transport minister S’bu Ndebele said on Thursday that the number of vehicles taken off the road since the beginning of the festive season stood at 3956.

Road accidents during the festive season have claimed more than 1000 lives, causing great concern to authorities struggling to keep the death toll down.

Dubbed a “coffin on wheels” by traffic officials, the taxi was stopped on Bushveld Road near Mabopane and impounded after officials noted its shocking state.

Gauteng chief inspector Brian Modise said taxis in this condition were to be found all over the country and they posed a serious danger to other road users.

The driver of the taxi was arrested on the spot and is to be charged with driving an unlicensed vehicle and driving without a Professional Driving Permit.

Modise said the driver’s permit had expired nearly two months ago.

“The driver said he had applied five years ago for a passenger road transport permit, but had still not been registered by the Gauteng Permit Board,” he said.

“This is a problem we encounter with many taxi drivers who are in cross-border regions like Mabopane, which was previously under the North West government, but is now in Gauteng.”

However, this was no excuse for driving a vehicle in such a state, Modise said.

The car was immediately impounded and would not drive on South African roads again, Modise added.

“We cannot afford to have such vehicles on the roads, especially those transporting people as the danger of losing lives is much higher with them,” he said.

“Some of these vehicles get away with it because they drive locally and are not spotted by officials, but if there is enough law enforcement we will get rid of them all.”

The driver will most likely join the increasing number of drivers whose licences have been suspended or cancelled by authorities.

More than 78 000 driving licences had been cancelled or suspended across the country in the past five years, Ndebele said.

Between 2006 and December 27 this year, 75 222 licences and Professional Driving Permits had been cancelled and 3049 suspended.

This year alone, more than 11 500 driving licences have been cancelled or suspended.

“We want to remind motorists that, in addition to a fine and/or imprisonment, the National Road Traffic Act also places a duty on courts to suspend or disqualify a driving licence for persons found guilty of drinking and driving, reckless and/or negligent driving and speeding,” Ndebele said.

For a first offence the licence would be suspended for at least six months, for a second offence for at least five years, and for a third or subsequent offence for at least 10 years.

Transport spokesman Logan Maistry said some cancellations and suspensions of driving licences were effected through the courts, while others were done by the provincial authority competent to do so.

Meanwhile, the Road Traffic Management Corporation said on Thursday that, on average, 39 people a day had been killed in traffic accidents between December 1 and December 26.

Spokesman Ashref Ismail said that 1023 people had died in 853 crashes.

“Given the high number of major fatal crashes recorded this festive season as a result of dangerous driving, traffic authorities around the country have been instructed to confiscate and provisionally suspend the driving licence of any offender.”

The authorities would show no mercy to those who drove recklessly and inconsiderately, Ismail said.

“Barrier line infringements, red-light jumping, and drinking and driving will lead to an arrest and offenders will have their licences suspended.”

On Monday, 19 people were killed when a minibus taxi and a car collided head-on on the R26 between Frankfort and Tweeling in the Free State.

The car and the taxi had caught fire, Free State police spokesman Sergeant Mmako Mophiring said.

“Some of the people were burnt beyond recognition after the impact,” he said.

“Four occupants of the car and 15 in the taxi died on the scene.”

Seven people were taken to the Mafube District Hospital in Frankfort, while two critically injured people were taken to the Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein.

“Major contributory factors to accidents remain speeds too high for the circumstances, especially at night and during inclement weather, drinking and driving, drinking and walking, and dangerous overtaking on barrier lines in the face of oncoming traffic,” said Ismail.

Comparisons with figures from previous years could not be done yet as details of some crash reports had yet to be captured.

On Tuesday, Limpopo traffic police arrested 53 drivers, including the driver of a Mini Cooper who was travelling at 214km/h in a 120km/h zone, Ismail said.

Between December 1 and December 28 last year, 1149 people were killed on the roads and 1 304 in the same period in 2009.

The Justice Project SA has said that there is no legal basis for traffic police to confiscate the driving licences of offenders on the spot, as the minister has threatened will be done.

“I am not saying licences should not be confiscated or suspended for serious offences, but there is a way to do so,” the organisation’s chairman Howard Dembovsky said. He said only the courts could revoke a licence. - Pretoria News

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