Success after anguish

2015-06-06 10:20
Newly graduated traffic officers jump and dance to keep warm 
at the Pietermaritzburg Traffic Training College yesterday. This group of graduates took part in the infamous fitness tests at Harry Gwala Stadium where eight people died.

Newly graduated traffic officers jump and dance to keep warm at the Pietermaritzburg Traffic Training College yesterday. This group of graduates took part in the infamous fitness tests at Harry Gwala Stadium where eight people died. (Jonathan Burton)

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THREE years after the disastrous provincial traffic officer recruitment drive that left eight people dead, 93 traffic officers graduated at the Pietermaritzburg Traffic Training College yesterday.

After waiting more than three hours for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu to arrive, the 93 new traffic officers were officially recognised as qualified officers.

Speaking to Weekend Witness, the graduates said the tragedy that tainted the recruitment drive in December 2012 was not “at the fault of the Department of Transport”.

“We were a very big group of prospective traffic officers and were all distinctly told that we had to bring our own refreshments on the day of our physical training,” said a graduate, who did not wish to be named.

On December 27 and 28, 2012, over 35 000 people attended a Road Traffic Inspectorate recruitment drive for only 90 posts. Seven people died of either dehydration, renal or multiple organ failure, while 22-year-old art student Sanele Ngcobo died after sustaining a 13 cm laceration to the trachea.

MEC Mchunu said the road to the graduation day was “a long, protracted one, complicated by the tragedy of December 2012”.

“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 that we will do all in our power to prevent such an incident from happening again.

“We must learn the hard lessons and move forward,” said Mchunu.

The department has implemented the recommendations made by the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) commission which saw 19 applicants who were hospitalised and suffered trauma receive compensation of R10 000 each.

“An amount of R100 000 in compensation has been paid to one of the applicants who was hospitalised for a long period of time. Specific matters with possible criminal implications have been referred to the SAPS for further investigation and investigation into the institution of internal disciplinary proceedings still continues and is being conducted by an independent party.”

Mchunu said the development of the RTI recruitment policy was in progress.

It is believed none from the group of graduates were injured during the 2012 incident.

The department’s chief director in communications Nathi Sukazi said these 93 graduates, two of whom are from Mtubatuba Municipality, will make a significant addition to the existing base of law enforcement officers in the province. “These traffic officers will be deployed to different stations in the province. They will boost our capacity and will allow for more manpower on the ground. This will in turn improve our visibility on roads and ensure traffic laws are respected. We want to save people’s lives,” said Sukazi

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