Blue lights ‘to stay’

2010-04-14 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Transport MEC Willies Mchunu says that allegations of a persistent abuse of power through the use of blue lights by “blue light bullies” is false and misleading.

Speaking in the legislature yesterday, during an interpellation on the abuse of power by members of the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI), Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU), the South African Police Force and VIP protection, including the abuse of emergency lights on the province’s roads, Mchunu said that there is no need for any resolution by the House on the matter.

He said provisions of the Road Traffic Act authorise police officials to exceed general speed limits and to disregard road traffic signs while acting in the execution of their duties. The Act’s definitions, he said, is sufficiently broad to encompass police officers, provincial traffic officers and metro police officers.

“The first point that needs to be made is that nowhere in the authorising legislation does it suggest that in order to disregard speed restrictions or road traffic signs, an emergency situation be in place as a precondition to exercising the authority by police officers.

“This notion arose out of a media frenzy and outcry, and erroneous reporting on an ‘emergency situation’ being a requirement for police officers or officials to disregard speed restrictions,” said Mchunu.

This has been further fuelled by utterances emanating from some members of the House, he added. The MEC said that these utterances have had the effect of instigating members of the public to disregard and disobey lawful instructions, issued by law enforcement officers in some instances. “This disregard and disobedience is illegal,” he said.

He provided statistics regarding cases against law enforcement members when it comes to the use of blue lights. Mchunu said that out of 1 017 RTI and PTEU members employed by his department, only two cases have been reported against PTEU members.

Of the 19 000 members of the SAPF and VIP protection, cases of “transgression” involving five members have been reported. “Government has mechanisms to deal with any transgressions by any person in its employ. The courts as well as departmental internal disciplinary procedures constitute some of these,” he said.

All reported cases, he said, are subject to disciplinary processes, and the courts have found some law enforcement members guilty and others not — and other cases are dealt with through internal disciplinary processes.

Democratic Alliance MPL Sizwe Mchunu asked how it is justified that an MEC drives at 120 km per hour in a 60 km per hour zone, with a school in sight. “We need to be sober when we deal with this issue. Those with blue lights are treated as first-class citizens and those without as second-class citizens. They are putting our children’s lives at risk. The use of blue lights [needs to be] either changed or regulated.”

Inkatha Freedom Party MPL Lourens de Klerk said that if regulations are not clear on how to use blue lights, law enforcement members will continue to act recklessly. He said that when politicians are late, and use blue lights, they put motorists’ lives at risk.

DA MPL Radley Keys said that Mchunu’s comments on the interpellation have given the “green light” for blue- light abuse to continue.

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