Drag racers watch out

2015-03-27 00:00

ILLEGAL drag racers and traffic offenders beware.

Stung by criticism over the lack of traffic and other enforcement, the Msunduzi Municipality is moving to clamp down on lawlessness in Pietermaritzburg.

A report detailing the opening of 24-hour traffic law enforcement stations across the city was tabled during the Executive Committee (Exco) meeting yesterday.

The municipality plans to build the traffic stations in all areas under its jurisdiction. The first two will be located in the CBD and the northern suburbs.

Provisions are also being made to increase the operating budget to the tune of R2,5 million for the night shift and standby allowances for staff.

Reckless and negligent driving, and the illegal parking of heavy duty vehicles in the municipal district are prime targets of the plan, which has been in the pipeline since 2013.

The announcement comes a few weeks after The Witness highlighted the chaotic traffic situation in the city and the lack of respect for traffic officers. The newspaper also highlighted that officers had been injured by motorists and that a shortage of traffic officers was making policing the roads difficult.

A report tabled at Exco yesterday said the city had grown over the past three years, with young people moving here for the nightlife and education opportunities.

“Whilst the above is applauded, the city on the other hand is experiencing almost a 30% increase in its maintenance and repairs budget, particularly on the replacement of traffic lights, crash barriers, electricity poles [from] motor vehicle accidents predominantly at night,” it said.

Msunduzi head of traffic Kwenza Khumalo said there was a need for a 24-hour policing initiative.

“The city’s night life is growing, and because of that you find that there are many illegal businesses that are mushrooming. There are illegal metered taxis and people are frying chips to sell on all corners at night.

“You find that what was once a fabric shop is now a tavern that operates illegally on certain days at certain times,” Khumalo said.

“People do all this because they know that in Pietermaritzburg there is no law enforcement.

“There is a robot in College Road that is always knocked down on Monday. Our budget to fix the infrastructure is increasing; that is a sign of a problem.”

Khumalo said a central station had already been opened at Publicity House, operating from 6 am to 6 pm for now. They would identify other buildings where officers would be based.

He said the full 24-hour shift would begin around July once the costs had been factored into the new financial year.

Khumalo said they were looking to recruit more staff, but would start the initiative with the staff on hand.

“We cannot wait to have a full complement of staff. If we wait any longer, by the time we start the buildings would have been stolen and there will be drag racing in all the streets of Pietermaritzburg.”

Northdale councillor Rooksana Ahmed said the council was losing money because of traffic violations.

“In the Northdale area, there is just a general violation of the municipal bylaws. You have the municipal infrastructure being damaged; the robots get knocked down. There is also the issue of drag racing, and all that damage comes at a huge cost to council,” she said.

Sources in the drag racing community said they would “wait and see”.

“Drag racing is very common in the Northdale area. It takes place twice a week … it might work, it might not,” said the source.

Another said Victoria Road in the CBD and Prilla Road near Greytown Road are popular venues for drag racing. The races normally take place on Thursdays and Sundays.

Khumalo said the issue of trucks parking illegally was another sign of the lack of enforcement.

This follows reports in The Witness that a truck stop would be built in the Hayfields area.

Khumalo said building a truck stop without finding out why truck drivers ignored the truck stops in Camperdown and Mooi River could be a waste of council money.

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