Anger as Mkondeni Testing Ground staff go on strike

2014-03-18 00:00

TRAFFIC officers from the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) in Pietermaritzburg yesterday downed tools leading to a near shutdown of the Mkondeni Testing Grounds, one of the Department of Transport’s busiest and most profitable operations.

And by the time of going to press it was unclear if they will be open today.

The officers went on strike after the department allegedly failed to pay them their overtime for the last month.

Several attempts to confirm this with any of the officers were unsuccessful.

Kwanele Ncalane, spokesperson for the Department of Transport, said he was not aware of the strike and asked to be called later.

Attempts to reach him later were unsuccessful as his phone rang unanswered.

The majority of the traffic officers were locked in a meeting with management at the department’s offices in Payne Street near Mediclinic.

“There are often not this many people here,” said an employee there. “They are here locked in a meeting with the management. I think they will come to a meeting of the minds soon because I could see some of the traffic officers taking their cars to patrol.”

Yesterday, the Mkondeni centre which caters for those coming to book and perform their learner’s and driver’s licence tests, renew driver’s licences and doing all the associated activities like eye tests and finger printing was a ghost town.

Normally it services hundreds of people on a daily basis and for each day the centre is closed, the department stands to lose between R50 000 to R100 000.

Customers standing in queues at around 8.30 am were informed that they would not be attended to, while others found a note hanging on the doors saying the centre was closed until further notice.

“I came here early in the morning escorting someone who was here to write their test. When we got here, the queues were winding all the way towards the gate,” said one of the customers who declined to be named.

“At about 8.30 am, one of the gentlemen from the office came out and told all the people that they should go home as they would not be helped today. By 8.40 am almost all the people there were gone,” said the source.

“They are only helping those who came to write their learner’s test and every­one else has been turned away.”

At around 9.30 am, there were no more than 50 people still standing there in the hope that something might change. Not a single vehicle was out with people doing driving tests.

“When told that they should go because nothing would be happening, a lot of people were very angry. Some of these people came from the township and had spent a lot of money and to come all that way and to be turned away made them angry.

“Some of these people had taken a day off from work to come here and nothing is happening; they should at least have put a note in the newspaper to say they would not be working today,” said the source.

A manager at a local driving school who cannot be named for fear of victimisation, said they were frustrated. “We have clients we need to take there tomorrow. We do not know whether they will be working but we have to take our clients there … ”

And so were the motorist, “We will have to drive without our licenses … ” complained one.

Another said, “There is nothing operating, we can’t even renew or get a temporary licenses because there is no eye testing”.

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