Where are the cops?

2013-08-21 00:00

WHERE are Pietermaritzburg’s traffic officers?

This is a frequently asked question by residents — especially when traffic lights are dysfunctional during peak hours or when an accident causes congestion, and no traffic officers are visible.

A traffic officer, who spoke on condition that he was not named, said: “We have said before that we do not have adequate tools of trade.”

He said the four vehicles recently added to their fleet did not make a difference because they simply replaced those that had broken down.

“We constantly share our vehicles and, therefore, we end up being inefficient because the [municipal] management does not listen to us. This leads to the non-delivery of an essential service,” he said.

Another traffic officer said they do not work overtime due to non-payment and were, therefore, not available during the night, and on public holidays and weekends.

“The municipal management fails to realise that we are an essential service and we cannot work for free,” he said.

Vanessa Jackson, spokesperson for the ER24 ambulance service, said the absence of traffic officers created difficult and dangerous situations at accident scenes.

A paramedic, who would not be named, said motorists often did not respond to an ambulance’s red light.

“People often do not respond to the red light and need a blue [police] light, especially at night. There is a need for a pre-warning [of an accident ahead].”

DA chief whip Roger Ashe said traffic control was one of the most important functions of traffic officers.

“This needs to be addressed before we have a major accident,” he said.

“We have complained about this on many occasions to the council. We never see any traffic policemen directing traffic and have been given all sorts of excuses by the council,” he said.

IFP caucus leader Dolo Zondi said the traffic department provided an essential service. “Msunduzi is the biggest municipality in the region and the capital city of the province, so it is very important for the city to sort out its traffic law enforcement,” he said.

Zondi said the situation was leading to the city gaining a bad reputation for inadequate traffic law enforcement.

Mayor Chris Ndlela acknowledged the concerns, saying the situation was exacerbated by the deregistration of a number of traffic officers.

“Fortunately, we are expecting a total of approximately 30 traffic officers to assume duties in the not so distant future. In the meantime, we appeal to road users, both drivers and pedestrians, to abide by the traffic rules and regulations. We appeal for patience and consideration on the road. We also appeal to law-abiding citizens to report reckless and negligent behaviour on our roads.”

Msunduzi municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said motorists should live with the situation in the interim.

“We need to understand and live with it because peak hour won’t change. I have travelled to many cities, but I have never seen traffic officers stationed at intersections, because you want traffic to move faster,” he said.

“During peak hours, our officers need to attend to areas where there are safety issues and to emergencies, which are prone to happen during peak hours,” he said.

Zuma’s advice to motorists was that the “general rule in any city is to leave early when going to work and leave later when leaving work”.

He said people also needed to call the traffic department if they required help, because the officers would not attend to an incident they were unaware of.

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