Some of the hired vehicles from Avis in Pretoria. 210113 Picture: Handout/Supplied

Cape Town - The embattled national traffic police unit, launched with much fanfare by former transport minister S’bu Ndebele, has been stripped of the blue lights they have been using on their Avis-rented fleet.

The supercop unit, which falls under the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), has been using Avis-rented vehicles for several months as it cannot afford to buy its own.

The Star has been reliably told that the drama took place in Pretoria, where the traffic officers were conducting stop-and-searches on the N1 near Zambezi Drive, when police confiscated the blue lights.

According to an insider, police told the unit’s officers they were not to use blue lights on unmarked cars. “They said this is a directive from the province,” the source said.

RTMC spokesman Ashref Ismail refused to comment.

Provincial police spokes-man Brigadier Neville Malila said the analysis had shown that most of the complainants said the vehicles used were private vehicles fitted with blue lights.

“Members of the SAPS and the metro police were informed that blue lights on private vehicles will be confiscated in order to stop the trend of alleged blue-light activities.

“The instruction to confiscate blue lights has nothing to do with the RTMC, but is a process to curb crimes in which blue lights are used.

“Yesterday afternoon, many officers were unable to work, and gathered at the RTMC offices in Pretoria because they were scared that their blue lights would be confiscated,” Malila added.

The Star understands that SAPS authorities have been unhappy with the supercop unit using blue lights on unmarked cars, saying it would jeopardise investigations against the blue-light gang that has been terrorising motorists in Joburg in the past few years.

The vehicles have stickers with the Avis logo and a small RTMC logo next to it.

A source said: “The SAPS felt that this was going to confuse motorists. They can’t tell if they are being robbed by the blue-light gang or being stopped by traffic officers.”

The Star understands that the matter was discussed at a high level in the SAPS at one of their meetings.

The unit has been operating without its vehicles since its establishment in 2011, and have been using cars belonging to the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral).

Earlier this month, Sanral officially withdrew all its cars.

The unit has been impeded in its work by a lack of resources, leading to an exodus of staff.

Last month, the supercop unit’s chief, David Tembe, resigned, citing interference and lack of resources.

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The Star