R10 000? ‘DJ got off lightly’

2012-03-17 17:15

A drunk driving lobby group has called on magistrates to impose maximum penalties on serious traffic offenders like Gareth Cliff – and take away their licences.

South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SAADD) made the call in the wake of a R10?000 fine that Cliff, a 5FM DJ, was slapped with after he was found guilty of speeding this week in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.

The popular DJ was arrested by the Gauteng High Speed Traffic police a fortnight ago after clocking in at 182km/h in a 120km/h zone on the Albertina Sisulu highway near Lyttelton, Pretoria.

He was returning home from OR Tambo International Airport when he was caught and the first-time offender pleaded guilty to the charge.

But Caro Smith, a counsellor and psychiatric social worker with links to Pietermaritzburg SAADD, said the court should have imposed a harsher sentence – in line with the National Road Traffic Act – to send out a message that speeding is a dangerous offence that contributes to the nation’s high road death toll.

Said Smith: “Why did Gareth Cliff get such a small fine and not lose his licence? The same applies to other high-profile speedsters like MEC Dan Kgothule of arts, culture and recreation in the Free State.”

Last year, the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court fined Kgothule R20?000 or 12 months in prison after he was found guilty of driving at 235km/h in a 120km/h zone.

Smith said the courts should enforce amendments to the law which came into effect last year, which state that anyone doing 30km/h over the speed limit in an urban area and 40km/h outside an urban area should automatically lose their licence.

“The law states the reason for not enforcing the suspension must be related to the offence, for example, a medical emergency, and not the offender. Our road deaths are so bad because people do not stick to the rules of the road, leading to innocent people being killed or maimed,” she said.

“The main reason they do not stick to the rules is because they know they are seldom tested, and if they are caught they usually get a slap on the wrist if they speed, drink and drive or are negligent.”

But the justice department spokesperson Tlali Tlali said it would be wrong for anyone to accuse the courts of not carrying out the law because each case was dealt with on its own merits.

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