Rush was on to appoint traffic officers for 2013 — Zwane

2013-12-03 00:00

MIRANDA Sindi Zwane, general manager for human resources for the Transport Department, yesterday admitted that the rush was on to appoint traffic officers when 40 700 recruitees applied for 90 posts in December last year.

She faced tough questioning about the poor planning of the RTI recruitment drive.

Zwane took the stand last week to answer questions by senior counsel Ravi Padayachee, the Transport Department’s legal representative, at the RTI Commission of Inquiry.

Zwane had earlier confirmed that she insisted the event continue after calls were made for the fitness tests to be called off when Edendale and Northdale hospitals found they could not cope with the influx of patients. She said recruits were prepared to run the mandatory 3,8 km fitness test at the Harry Gwala stadium as they were desperate for the jobs on offer.

She said it would have been too costly for the department to postpone the recruitment drive. “We were running against time, because, if we had postponed the training, it would have meant that for the whole of 2013 we could not recruit more traffic officers,” she said.

The department had not hired traffic officers since 2009 and appointments needed to be made before the end of 2012, so that new recruits could go to traffic training college in January 2013.

Eight people died after participating in the fitness tests on December 27 and 28.

Zwane maintained that it would be a problem to stop the event because the department had prioritised the filling of those posts. She said in SA there are 10 million roads, which have to be policed by 17 000 traffic officers.

“So we have a shortage of traffic officers, that is why we could not waste another year without employing additional officers,” she said.

But her decision to continue the fitness tests put her under the spotlight during cross-examination by SA Legal Aid representative, advocate Nomsa Khuzwayo, who wasted no time telling Zwane that they should have provided cleaners at the stadium’s toilets so that participants who wanted to drink water could have done so in a clean environment.

Khuzwayo asked why she had not prepared water for participants. “Was bottled water for officials or was it for participants?” she asked.

Khuzwayo read out a statement from people who were assisting participants with water and even organised buckets filled with water at Alexandra Swimming Pool so participants could refresh themselves during the run. That was done without anyone asking them to do so.

Khuzwayo read another statement by someone who witnessed a participant who had collapsed and was trying to get a traffic officer to help. “The officer responded by saying, ‘This is what happens to people who eat Danone [yogurt]’ and walked away,” said Khuzwayo. This was perceived to have meant that participants were weak.

“What do you have to say to that, Miss Zwane?” she asked. Zwane said if that was true, it was a very “unfortunate” incident.

The commission continues today with Zwane still on the stand.

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