Emotional day for KZN RTI graduates

2015-06-05 17:49
RTI KZN recruits (Amanda Khoza, News24)

RTI KZN recruits (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Pietermaritzburg - The lingering memories of the eight people who died following a Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) fitness test in Pietermaritzburg three years ago were strongly felt by some of the 91 people who graduated as RTI officers on Friday. 

The officers celebrated with their families in a parade ceremony at the RTI Traffic Training College.

Seven people died of dehydration and heatstroke during a KwaZulu-Natal transport fitness test at Harry Gwala Stadium in December 2012.

The eighth person committed suicide after failing to make the cut. More than 34 000 people had qualified to apply for RTI trainee posts which the department had advertised that year. Of these, 15 600 applicants attended a fitness test at the Harry Gwala Stadium.

'I refused to give up'

Aliyah Davids, 23, said she had to cut short a family holiday in Cape Town and booked the first flight back to KwaZulu-Natal when she received the call that she had made it through for the fitness test. She was at the stadium by 05:00 that hot summer day.

“I remember sitting and waiting for my turn and seeing people fainting because it was so hot. I thought to myself, this job was not for me, but something told me to stay.”

Davids finally got her big break at noon.

“When it was my turn to run, I just kept pushing on and keeping my head down, I refused to give up. The female candidates had to run 4km in 30 minutes and I made it on time.”

She said she only realised later that there had been a tragedy.

“Today is a bittersweet moment because of what happened that day, but I am glad I did not give up because today I am graduating,” said Davids, who has been deployed to the Pinetown RTI station.

'Today is an emotional day for many of us'

Reagan Pillay, 25, from Verulam in Durban was awarded the Student of the Year trophy for the Class of 2014. He too said he would never forget that day.

“It was very hot that day. I arrived at the stadium at 5am and only ran at about 3pm.

“Today is an emotional day for many of us, because people died trying to achieve what we have achieved today. I am really happy we made it to the end,” said Pillay.

“It was pure hard work and dedication that got me to where I am today. I worked hard from the beginning. It’s been a long 12 months.”

'I always admired traffic officers'

Pillay, who was also deployed to Pinetown, said he always wanted a career in law enforcement.

"Today is a dream come true. I can remember from the time I was a little boy, I always admired traffic officers."

Addressing the graduates, KwaZulu-Natal Transport MEC Willies Mchunu said he was haunted by what happened that day.

“The road to this day was a long and complicated one by the tragedy of December 2012. When the Department of Transport started the recruitment process for the 91 trainee traffic officers, this was done to beef up our provincial road traffic law enforcement.

“However, in the course of normal processes, an unfortunate eventuality occurred, which resulted in the loss of eight lives of prospective candidates. 

"This we regret thoroughly even to this day. Having gone through the difficult time, including the commission of inquiry established by the premier, and the subsequent release of its findings and recommendations, we wish to commit we will do all in our power to prevent such an incident from happening again."

'We are again saying sorry to those families'

He said 19 applicants were hospitalised and had since been compensated with R10 000 each, while R100 000 was paid to one of the applicants who was hospitalised for a long period of time.

“I know money cannot replace the lives lost. The department had to say we are sorry for what happened and I know it won’t undo what has been done. We are again saying sorry to those families.”

Mchunu said the graduates were taught the National Road Traffic Act, National Land Transport Act, Firearms Control Act and the Constitution during their course.

He told the new recruits to wear their uniforms with pride.

“As you go out there to serve your country, I expect you to respect your uniform, respect your supervisors, respect the community, but do not respect crime,” said Mchunu. 

Read more on:    willies mchunu  |  pietermaritzburg  |  training

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