Msunduzi’s traffic wrecks

2011-03-09 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipal traffic officers are fed up with using council-issued vehicles that are unroadworthy and that have licence discs that expired years ago.

This follows an investigation by The Witness yesterday which found that many municipal traffic vehicles are in disrepair, unlicensed or both.

One of the traffic cars encountered yesterday, while out on patrol near Jesmond Road in Pelham, had no licence disc.

When questioned, the traffic officer, who asked to remain unnamed for fear of losing his job, said the loicence expired in 2009.

He said there are many vehicles in the municipal traffic headquarters in Washington Road that have expired licence discs. Some have dents and worn-out tyres.

When The Witness went to the headquarters, it counted five traffic vehicles that are used daily to police the city’s roads. None displayed a current licence disc. A source alleged that there are about 15 public safety vehicles with expired licence discs.

The officer on patrol said the vehicle he was using is unroadworthy. He said the engine leaks oil constantly and the vehicle “wobbles uncontrollably” when it reaches 120 km/h.

He blamed the municipality’s management for delays in replacing the ageing fleet.

“I have to carry a five-litre container of oil to refill when the car signals with a clicking sound from the engine that it has run out of oil,” he said.

The same car had a broken tail-light and worn-out shocks absorbers and the siren and blue lights did not work.

Ironically, the same officers had pulled a brand-new VW Crafter off the road because its temporary licence had expired three days ago.

Another traffic officer, who requested anonymity, said the vehicle he uses has oil leaks and a problem with the steering. “When you turn the wheel it makes such a noise that you’re scared something might fall off.”

He added: “How can I as a traffic officer stop you for your tyres when mine are defective?”.

Left: Senior traffic officer Mbongiseni Nkabinde attended to the scene of a truck which overturned at the Chatterton Road traffic circle after its brakes failed on the N3 and it careered off the southbound carriageway via the on-ramp to the northbound carriageway. (Photo: Chris Ndaliso)

But a senior traffic officer, who also wished to remain anonymous, said some traffic officers purposely avoid adhering to safety and roadworthiness requirements.

He said they do not send the vehicles for servicing and librication on the required dates because they would not be able to take their children to school or do their grocery shopping.

Other officers do not report accidents in which municipal traffic vehicles are involved.

“The state the vehicles are in is pathetic. The traffic officers only complain when they have to do their job, but do not complain when they are using the vehicles for their personal use,” he said.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said it is common knowledge that the entire municipal fleet is ageing, and the traffic fleet is no exception.

“It is, however, shocking to learn that there are official traffic vehicles that are running around unlicensed. It is the responsibility of fleet management to licence all municipal vehicles, and the responsibility of the user to ensure that he or she is using a fully licensed vehicle to do official business,” he said.

“We are going to check with fleet management to see if there are any licence discs lying uncollected, or if indeed the vehicles are unlicensed. There may be vehicles that we need to remove from the road if they are declared unroadworthy, and that can be done on the recommendation of fleet management,” Zuma added.

KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) spokersperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said that RTI officers have a transport manager who ensures that all vehicles are roadworthy and licenced and that their sirens and blue lights are in good working order before going on road patrols. Mngomezulu said that none of the RTI’s vehicles leaves the compound with dents because when pulling motorists over to check roadworthiness and licence discs it wants to lead by example.

The traffic officers … do not complain when they are using the vehicles for their personal use. Senior officer

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