Corrupt traffic officials arrested

Zahid Bhayat, 40, cuffed at the Potchefstroom provincial office last week.

Zahid Bhayat, 40, cuffed at the Potchefstroom provincial office last week.

Published Dec 28, 2017

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Durban - Speeding luxury vehicles along the N12 were more than just a legal violation for a 40-year-old Potchefstroom traffic officer, who stopped motorists to allegedly earn extra cash for the holidays.

Zahid Bhayat, who regularly conducts highway patrol on the N12, was arrested by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigations unit for the alleged solicitation of bribes from motorists travelling between Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom.

He was arrested at the Potchefstroom provincial office and briefly appeared in the Klerksdorp Magistrate's Court where he was granted R2 000 bail. The matter was adjourned to January 24.

Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso said the Hawks’ investigative unit received information alleging that Bhayat would stop motorists driving high-end vehicles, claiming they had exceeded the speed limit.

“Threats of arresting the motorists would follow and subsequently he would demand a minimum payment of R2 000 to allegedly cancel the speed reading,” alleged Rikhotso.

Rikhotso said intensive investigations led to Bhayat’s arrest.

She urged officers to steer clear of corruption especially during the festive season when motorists are prone to indulge in illegal activities.

A further 12 traffic officers were arrested in the Tzaneen area for corruption, bringing the total to 17 traffic officials that have been brought to book.

According to the Hawks, three traffic examiners aged 46, 49 and 55 and three civilian facilitators were arrested for allegedly soliciting bribes from potential applicants for learner’s and driver's licences at the Nkowankowa testing centre. The testing centre was subsequently closed.

Two other traffic officials, who allegedly ran away, handed themselves over to the investigating team.

The suspects are due to appear at the Ritavi Magistrate's Court facing charges related to the contravention of the Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.

The arrests were part of a joint operation by the Hawks and Road Traffic Management Corporation's National Traffic Anti-Corruption Unit.

Road corporation spokesperson, Simon Zwane, said: “The arrests followed 18 months of investigation in which undercover operatives, working under Operation Code 14, identified officers involved in corruption at driving licence centres.

“It is alleged that the civilians acted as middlemen, who facilitated the payment of bribes between licence applicants and examiners. The arrests marked the culmination of Operation Code 14 and the testing centre was closed as all examiners were arrested.”

He said anti-corruption officers have identified corruption and bribery in the issuing of driving documents as contributing factors behind the country's high accident rate.

“Untrained and unfit drivers commit avoidable mistakes and cause unnecessary crashes that lead to injuries and fatalities.”

North West Provincial head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Major General Linda Mbana, said the Hawks would continue to fight the scourge of corruption in the province.

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