‘One for the road’

By admin
14 May 2014

Siyabonga Kamnqa investigates why thousands of people continue to perish on South African roads despite the many campaigns against drunk-driving

It’s a familiar phrase among drinkers at a watering hole when they are about to

depart and head home: “Let’s have one for the road.”

But the popular last drink oftenends up literally being the last drink for thousands of motorists who perish on South African roadsbecause of drunk driving. Despite the fact that in South Africa drinking and driving carries a hefty fine of R120 000 or six months in jail; it seems some motorists continue to be bottle happyon the roads.

Worst drunk-driving case

The horrific drunk-driving accident where Johannesburg mechanical engineer Sibusiso Langa ran down five female joggers in 2011 sent shockwaves throughout the country. An early morning jog for the five women turned into one of the worst accidents the country has ever seen, after a drunken Langa mowed them down with his luxury 4x4 vehicle.

The North Gauteng High Court found Langa guilty on five counts of culpable homicide and one of

drunk driving. Langa’s claims that the accident had taken place on his side of the road, and

that the joggers had run into the path of his Mercedes-Benz ML500, were both dismissed by the court.


The court ruled that the accident happened while Langa was driving on the wrong side of the road.

During the court case it also emerged that Langa started applying the brakes only after hitting

the joggers, and that he was driving more than 113km/h in a 60km/h zone. Langa was convicted of culpable homicide and sentenced to the maximum 25 years. In another case, musician Molemo     ‘Jub Jub’ Maarohanye and Themba Tshabalala were each sentenced to an effective 25 years in jail after running down and killing four schoolboys in Soweto. They later tested positive for alcohol and drugs.

‘A big challenge’

Johannesburg Metro Police Department spokeswoman Edna Mamonyane tells Move! the war

against drunk-driving is a big challenge and is “far from being won”. Mamonyane says despite the

many campaigns to educate motorists about drunk driving, they continue to get behind the wheel

under the influence of alcohol. “The majority of fatal accidents on our roads, especially over

weekends and the holiday seasons, are as a result of drunk-driving. It is unfortunate because many innocent lives are lost as a result of the reckless actions of one driver,” says Mamonyane.

Motorists often come up with all sorts of excuses after being busted for drunk-driving, Mamonyane says.“Some say they are on medication, or their pregnant partner is about to deliver, or they were

rushing to a family member who is dead or in hospital. This despite the fact that they reek of alcohol

and some can’t even stand on their feet,” says Mamonyane.


Mamonyane says the sad part is that many motorists get busted for the same drunk-driving offence less than 12 months down the line.“I think the bottom line is that people don’t learn their lesson. It is sad, because even alcohol companies like SAB and Brand house are running campaigns warning motorists about the dangers of driving drunk,” she says. Mamonyane cautions motorists

to always find a sober driver, also called a ‘designated driver’, if they are going to be drinking.

Shocking statistics

According to South Africans against Drunk Driving (SADD), every year about 18,000 South Africans die in car crashes and 150,000 people are

injured, often seriously. This costs our economy about R43 billion a year. Alcohol is involved in about 50% of these cases. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in South Africa. The legal limit for alcohol in the blood is 0.05g per 100ml and the breath alcohol-content limit is

0.24mg per 1000ml. It is illegal to refuse a blood or breathalyser test. If convicted of a drunk-driving offence, the driver loses their licence for a minimum of six months.


Over the years a number of high profile people have been in the news for drunk-driving. Even public

figures playing prominent roles in law enforcement and the judiciary have fallen foul of this law.

Robert McBride was arrested in 2006 after crashing his official car on the R511 following a Christmas party. Earlier this month, two judges upheld McBride’s appeal against his conviction, as well as his

five-year jail sentence.


Judge Nkola Motata was found guilty of drunk driving in September 2009 after crashing his luxury car into the perimeter wall of the house of businessman Richard Baird in

2007. He was sentenced to a fine of R20 000 or one year in prison. Motata told Baird at the time, “This used to be a white man’s land, even if they can have more land.

South Africa is ours, we are ruling South Africa.”

- As published in Move! Magazine 30 APRIL 2014 |