Blue lights: threat to reporter

2010-04-20 00:00

PUBLIC Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU) members do indeed replace their legal number plates with unregistered ones from time to time.

Transport Department spokesperson Bheki Mncube confirmed this during a heated phone interview with a Witness reporter on Friday evening.

Mncube was reacting to Friday’s Witness article about two blue light vehicles, an Audi A3 and Golf GTI, which allegedly drove at excessive speeds, harassing a doctor on the N2 near uMhlanga on Wednesday morning.

The department was contacted for comment and to confirm the ownership of the vehicles.

Spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu could only say the Golf GTI does not exist on their system, but would not comment on the Audi.

The Witness established that the Audi belongs to the Transport Department.

The number plates of both vehicles were published.

Mncube berated the reporter on Friday evening, saying it is “unethical” to publish the registration numbers.

In the interview, Mncube said that publishing the number plates would put PTEU members’ lives at risk and that the reporter is “obsessed with blue lights”.

“For security reasons, PTEU members would replace their registration numbers with the ones that you can ne­ver find in our system. We are going to stop you from what you are doing,” Mncube threatened.

When asked if that was supposed to be a threat, he said: “It’s a serious threat and we will stop you.”

Mncube failed to acknowledge, when asked, that other people’s lives had been put at risk at the time of the incident.

“Who are those people you are referring to? It is clear you don’t know the struggle. You are a ‘lightie’; you know nothing about politics,” snapped Mncube.

Asked about the relevance of politics to the bullying of motorists, he hung up.

Before the interview, ­Mncube forwarded a lengthy SMS to the reporter that reads: “Journalism is not an end in itself and neither is it a law unto itself, nor an institution of do- gooders or saints. It is nonetheless an institution that plays a watchdog function over society, especially those who perform a public function. Government and media coexist in a democracy — each has a special role to play.”

The manager in the Transport MEC’s office, Sthandiwe Duze, said she is not aware that PTEU members can use unregistered number plates. She asked for a report be sent to her office so she can take it up with the MEC.

DA spokesperson for Community Safety and Liaison Sizwe Mchunu said his party strongly condemns such threats by a senior government official. He said journalists should be able to report without fear of intimidation.

“Officials like Mr Mncube are not accountable to the po­liticians who pay their salaries, but to the taxpayer. We take note of the statement he made, that PTEU members change their registration numbers from time to time, and we will seek explanation of that,” said Mchunu.


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