Briefing the media before presenting the department’s budget in Parliament, Minister Joe Maswanganyi said on Tuesday the cabinet had approved the national road safety strategy as part of efforts to strengthen road safety.
“In the current financial year there will be an increase in the number of law enforcement officers on public roads,” Maswanganyi said. “The department will advocate that law enforcement be declared an essential service to ensure availability of traffic officers on 24/7 schedule on the country’s roads.”
The department’s acting director-general, Mathabatha Mokonyama, said the issue of declaring traffic jobs an essential service has been on the table for years.
“All the time we have been engaging the unions - and we have found each other," he said. "Very soon we should make an announcement.”
Road Traffic Management Corporation chief executive Makhosini Msibi said the idea behind declaring traffic jobs an essential service and introducing around-the-clock shifts was to ensure visibility of traffic officers on the roads. Msibi also said unions were being engaged on declaring the traffic jobs an essential service.
“The only salient issue is to find one another on the matter of overtime - how to incentivise traffic officers,” he said.
He said there was no disagreement with the unions on the need for the proposed 24-hour shift schedule; crashes often happened outside the normal working hours of traffic officers, between 6pm and 5am.
In 2014, he had complained to the National Council of Provinces about a shortage of resources on the road, with only 17 000 traffic officers, half of whom were assigned to driver and licence-testing duties, a quarter were on leave at any given time, while the other quarter were assigned to the roads.
He had said the conditions of service were not encouraging, as traffic jobs were not declared as an essential service. Traffic officers were also forced to work overtime, although the Public Service Act prohibited employees from working more than a certain number of hours.