ANC spokesman not off the hook

2010-03-16 08:33

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu will still be prosecuted for drunken

driving despite reports that breathalyser tests will be discontinued, the

Western Cape department of transport said yesterday.


Spokesman Solly Malatsi said Mthembu’s case won’t be affected by

the confusion over whether the Dräger testing machines may be used or not.


“That case is not in jeopardy,” said Malatsi. “The Western Cape

will continue using the Dräger for the long haul,” he said.

Mthembu was arrested in Cape Town last Thursday, allegedly for

driving under the influence of alcohol. He was only tested with the Dräger

device.


Malatsi said no drunk driving cases in the Western Cape would be

affected.


Robert Carlisle, head of the Western Cape transport department said

in a statement yesterday there was no truth to reports that breathalyser testing

was stopped in the Western Cape.


“Neither the Western Cape provincial government nor the director of

public prosecutions has received any instruction from the National Prosecution

Authority to stop using the Dräger breathalyser machines to test drunk

driving.”


Newspaper reports in the Cape yesterday said breathalyser tests

were invalid. Carlisle said these reports distorted the facts.


“The fight against drunken killers on our roads is one of the

biggest challenges facing South Africa.”


He said drivers were still tested with the system over the weekend.


“It is vital to understand that there are four stand-alone

evidential methods: the police officers’ testimony, video testimony of the

accused at Shadow [Safely Home Anti Drunk-driving Operations War room] which is

admissible in court, the Dräger result, and blood samples when drawn.


“Any of these can be used to secure a prosecution of driving under

the influence of alcohol or drunk driving.”

Carlisle said the Western Cape’s approach was to use at least three

of these methods in every case.


“There is no escape. I want to send out this message loud and

clear: anyone who drinks and drives tonight and is stopped by the law

enforcement agencies will be taken to Shadow to be tested.


‘‘If they are over the legal alcohol limit, they will be arrested

and taken to the cells like any other night.”


The NPA said drunk drivers caught in Gauteng recently could be off

the hook after the breathalyser device used to test them was suspended.


“The Dräger machine has been suspended in Gauteng for the past two

weeks due to a certification problem,” spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said.


“We have also withdrawn all drunken driving cases which had not yet

started that relied solely on the machine’s readings.”


Mhaga said the NPA was still in talks with authorities in other

provinces about use of the breathalyser.


Johannesburg Metro Police Department Chief Superintendent Wayne

Minnaar said there was nothing wrong with the devices.


“All the machines need to comply with the country’s standards is

the SABS [SA Bureau of Standards] stamp and we hope they would be functional

soon. For now we only use the breathalyser for screening before taking the

driver for a blood test.”


The Road Traffic Act governs drunk driving prosecutions, and the

machines have to comply with national standards.


The Star newspaper quoted Dräger product manager for breathalyser

equipment Chris Vertue as saying a change in prosecutorial guidelines had caused

the machines to fall outside the necessary certification.


There were no defects with the machines.


Vertue said the company was waiting for the relevant paperwork from

Germany before sending the machines to be re-certified.


This could take several months.
 

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