'Motorists will lose respect’

2012-07-27 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL MEC Meshack Radebe expressed concern that the public will have less respect for blue light vehicles after the sentencing of two VIP Protection Unit members, Hlanganani Nxumalo and Caiphas Ndlela, yesterday.

Radebe said the court’s verdict might “send a wrong message” to road users who would be more likely to “block” blue light cars on the roads.

Ndlela and Nxumalo were found guilty of charges arising from an incident that occurred on the N3 while they were rushing to fetch Radebe, then MEC for Social Development, from Waterfall on November 15, 2008.

Ndlela was found guilty of negligent driving for riding on the bumper of Anuvasen Moodley’s car when it blocked their progress in the fast lane.

The court found Moodley had been unable to move over because of trucks in the slow lane.

Nxumalo was ruled to have fired two shots negligently in a “bullying” way on the N3, which caused Moodley to lose control and collide with oncoming traffic.

Nxumalo was given a fine of R12 000, plus a suspended sentence of four years’ imprisonment, and Ndlela was sentenced to a fine of R3 000 plus a suspended sentence of two years’ imprisonment by regional court magistrate, Chris van Vuuren.

Both men still work for Radebe, who praised them as being “trustworthy” and good policemen. Radebe said after sentencing that he respected the law of the land and therefore the judgment of the court, but he nonetheless believed that Ndlela’s conviction was not justified as he had not “smashed” into “or even “touched” any car. He also did not agree with the court’s finding that the situation the accused found themselves in that day was not an emergency.

“It was actually a disaster, a tragedy … How do you make an appointment with disaster?” he said.

Radebe said he was waiting to go to Molweni area where 100 houses had been destroyed due to storm damage and at least eight people had lost their lives.

Radebe did not wish to comment about the fact that Nxumalo had fired shots on the highway, as he was not there. “I don’t know the circumstances and I cannot say it was correct or it was wrong.” Ndlela referred reporters to his attorney, Mohamed Essa, after the case, saying he could not personally comment as he still intended to petition the chief justice for leave to appeal against his conviction.

This was because Van Vuuren had refused his application for leave to appeal yesterday. Essa said Ndlela was obviously “unhappy” with the guilty verdict. Nxumalo said he was “still deciding” if he should apply for leave to appeal. “In the meantime, I am relieved even though my reputation has gone down the drain,” he said.

Van Vuuren said when sentencing the two accused that he’d divorced himself from the “hype” surrounding blue light vehicles and was sentencing the men only for their respective actions. He took into account that both were first offenders with young children and that they had exemplary records.

He also had consideration for the fact that as protection unit members they were under pressure to perform and “please those whom they serve”.

“Unfair expectations, I am sure, are placed on their shoulders. This does not, however, permit them to transgress the law and place the public in danger. It most certainly does not justify firing shots in the air to exert authority and impose a sense of fear upon road users,” he said.

He said it was not in the interests of society that road user’s lives were placed at risk in the manner they were by Nxumalo’s actions and the way that Ndlela drove his vehicle that day.

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