Traffic cops ‘only worried about overtime’, commission hears

2013-04-30 15:58

Traffic cops who were involved with a Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) fitness test that resulted in eight deaths have been accused of causing delays in order to be paid overtime, the Road Traffic Inspectorate Recruitment Commission of Inquiry heard today.

Nonhlanhla Mlambo (30), who attended the RTI fitness tests – on December 27, as an observer and on December 28, as a participant – testified that the officers were only concerned about overtime.

She is the first witness to testify in front of the commission, which started its hearings on Monday.

As many as 15 000 traffic recruits participated in the run on both days. They were applying for 90 available posts.

Mlambo’s evidence today was laced with accusations of inhumane treatment of the participants and the insensitivity of traffic cops who wanted to be paid overtime.

At one point, the commission had to adjourn so that she could compose herself.

Mlambo told the commission that her group – which had been referred to as a “tsumani” because of the number of people with surnames starting with “M” and “N” – had been called to the starting point around 3pm.

They sat, unattended, in the sun, until 7pm, when the 4km run – a fitness test – started.

“They gave no explanation as to what we were waiting for. The traffic cops chatted among themselves as if there was no one there,” Mlambo testified.

She claims to have overheard traffic officers saying, “they don’t understand that we are working OT”.

Mlambo said she understood this to mean overtime.

She said while the group that participated on the first day had not been given indemnity forms, they had been given forms to sign on the second day.

But this was done in a rush, since they were given last minute and they had to share pens.

Mlambo claims someone, who looked like a traffic cop, raised a form in the air and announced: “You will sign this form, seeing that you are dying. Your lives are in your own hands,” she testified.

Since she was desperate for a job, she signed the form.

Earlier she said a different traffic cop said: “Seeing that you are collapsing, we have organised a bus (paramedics van) to collect you when you fall.” But she had not seen this bus while she ran. Even when she returned to the stadium, following her run, the paramedics were not inside the stadium, but stood some distance from the gate.

Mlambo managed to finish her race under the 30-minute cut-off time allocated to women.

Men had to run it in 25 minutes.

When she experienced shortness of breath and needing oxygen, she was refused help by a traffic cop who manned the gate.

She claims the traffic cop told her that, if he opened (the gate), “those who did not make the cut-off time would come in”.

She had to squeeze through a small opening the officer made for her to go out, and dragged herself towards the paramedics’ van.

She said she made “a short prayer to God” for her to make it to the van, which she did.

But she later found out that she had collapsed thereafter and was taken to hospital.

Mlambo regained consciousness the next day to find her eyes and whole body swollen.

She was on a drip and was wearing an oxygen mask. Asked how she felt about the incident, Mlambo said she was saddened by what had happened to her and her fellow participants.

“We were treated like we were not human beings. They took advantage of the fact that we were needy and willing to tolerate anything.

“The snide comments they made showed that we were nothing to them. People collapsed and died and yet they turned it into a joke.

The hearings continue on Thursday.

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