Shock at OJ’s drink acquittal

2009-06-25 00:00

THE acquittal of Pietermaritzburg soccer player Mbulelo “Old John” Mabizela was received with astonishment by South Africans against Drunk Driving (Sadd) founder Caro Smit.

Smit challenged the department of Justice to hand down harsher sentences to drunk drivers.

“Sadd asks for Pietermaritzburg magistrates and judges to support road safety officials, who are doing such good work in catching some of the drunk drivers, by giving appropriate sentences and we request the fitting of Alcolocks for repeat offenders or those with high alcohol concentrations.”

Alcolocks are devices that detect alcohol levels in the breath to prevent drunk people from being able to start their cars.

On his arrest, Mabizela was tested on a Dreager machine, which showed his breath-alcohol level was 1,09 mg per 1000 ml — equivalent to 10 tots of brandy.

“Draeger results are very accurate and lawyers know they cannot get clients off on this point, so they often look for other technicalities,” said Smit.

“This time it was that the SAPS officer had allegedly forgotten to tell him he was being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, and would be tested on the Draeger machine.” However, Smit said, other people’s rights are being violated in the pro­cess.

“Although Mabizela’s Constitutional rights were not explained to him properly by the police, no one is considering the Constitutional rights of the other road users, who were put at risk because of his serious state of impairment.”

She said the acquittal will not help Mabizela and other road users, but rather may make him arrogant. “He does not seem to have learnt any road safety lessons, except that if you have money in SA you can get off virtually any charge. He should have at least been sent for alcohol education and counselling at Nicro or Sanca, to teach him about the slow elimination rates of alcohol, and the effects of alcohol on driving skills.”

Smit said that even though the KZN capital has the highest number of people arrested for drunk driving in the province, the sentences given here are inappropriate.

“Out of the 93 drunk drivers who were convicted in Pietermaritzburg in May 2009, 29% were more than twice the legal limit (between 0,05 and 0,74 mg); 13% were more than three times the legal limit (between 0,75 and 0,89 mg) and a staggering 19% had levels above 0,90 mg. The sentences that were given by the magistrates were very lenient and not enough to be prohibitive.”

Smit said possible punishments include fines of R120 000, suspension of drivers’ licences, community service and alcohol education.

SAPS spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said an internal inquiry will be conducted into the matter.

Mabizela was once seen as one of the most talented football players in the country, but has often been in the news for the wrong reasons.

He played for Orlando Pirates and Tottenham Hotspurs before joining Vålerenga in Norway. In August 2006, he signed for Mamelodi Sundowns.

In December 2006, he received a six-month ban from the game for drug offences. In 2008, while playing for Sundowns, he went Awol and crashed his car in Pietermaritzburg, missing a call-up for Bafana Bafana.

Mabizela is currently with Platinum Stars FC and has not played in six months.

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