Bribe bust at PMB traffic centre

2018-07-25 15:45
A driving instructor from Nondaba Driving School is arrested by traffic department officials at the Mkondeni licensing offices on Tuesday.

A driving instructor from Nondaba Driving School is arrested by traffic department officials at the Mkondeni licensing offices on Tuesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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A driving school instructor was arrested at the Mkondeni licensing offices on Tuesday in a sting operation after The Witness tipped off authorities about the plight of an applicant who was being forced to pay a bribe.

On Monday afternoon The Witness was contacted by a young Pietermaritzburg student from Blackridge (24), who cannot be named, seeking help after he was instructed to pay a bribe to pass his driver’s licence test. “A day before my driver’s test the driving school instructor told me that I needed to pay R1 500 for ‘cool drink’. He said he will give the money to the traffic officer or else I’ll fail even before I get to drive.”

The man said when he was planning to get his driver’s licence he had not budgeted to pay a bribe.

“I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t have that kind of money,” he said.

The Witness contacted KwaZulu-Natal Transport MEC Mxolisi Kaunda and told him about the young man’s dilemma. Kaunda organised a sting operation with the intention of catching all the perpetrators red handed.

The applicant was given marked bank notes to give to his instructor before his driver’s licence test.

While doing his test, he made it out of the testing grounds but said he failed while on the public roads because he did not adhere to the speed limit.

The traffic officer drove the vehicle back to the Mkondeni testing grounds.

Undercover officers then pounced on the Nondaba Driving School instructor, and upon searching him, recovered the marked money from him. He was handcuffed and arrested.

Sbu Zondi, the owner of Nondaba Driving School, said he heard about the arrest on Tuesday but did not have full information about what happened. “I really cannot comment on the matter as yet. I need to speak to the instructor who was arrested and find out what happened exactly,” he said.

Road Traffic Inspectorate director Victor Chetty said the sting operation was a joint operation by the Traffic and Transport Investigating Unit and the Hawks.

Mluleki Mntungwa, KZN Traffic Department spokesperson, said from yesterday’s incident it was evident that if the public worked together with the government, they would be able to eradicate the ongoing corruption in the province. “Since the beginning of this year, MEC Kaunda had declared zero tolerance on fraud and corruption at our testing centres by making unannounced visits to these centres.

“These initiatives are beginning to yield positive results so we encourage members of the public to blow the whistle on corrupt members of the public and officials,” he said.

Mntungwa said the public could report such matters to the police.

Speaking to The Witness on Tuesday afternoon after the whole incident, the applicant said he was “a little scared but relieved it was all over”.

“I am impressed with the prompt response from the Transport Department and how they handled the matter,” he said, adding that the department has organised another driver’s test for him soon.

How the bribe system works at licensing centres

A driving instructor who owns another driving school in the city explained to The Witness how the bribe system works, on the condition that his identity would not be revealed.

The man said when an applicant books a car to use during their driver’s licence test at the driving school, they are usually told that there might be a possibility that a bribe might be required.

“Usually the bribe money is split in half; one half goes to the traffic officer and the other goes to the instructor from the driving school.

“The process differs from place to place. At some places the instructors from driving schools don’t contact or talk to traffic officers; there is one person referred to as the ‘spinner’ who collects the bribe monies from all the driving schools and meets up with the traffic officers later or leaves the money somewhere for collection.

“At some places the instructors leave the bribe money inside the car where the officer will see it, and the officer then knows that they should pass that applicant.”

He said when the bribe has been paid; minor mistakes made by the applicant, like not checking the mirrors while at the testing grounds, are overlooked because such mistakes cannot be seen on the cameras.

“When you leave the testing ground onto the public roads it’s a free-for-all. You can make mistakes there but you won’t be penalised.”

He said the rule was that the applicant gets back their bribe money if they fail while still at the testing grounds but some instructors tend to rob the applicants by not reimbursing them.

The man alleged that some traffic officers fail applicants who refuse to pay bribes.

“There really isn’t any way for the applicant to prove that they were failed because they refused to pay a bribe. It’s their word against the officer’s,” he said.

Referring to Tuesday’s incident, the man said it could happen that the traffic officer had not asked for a bribe as the applicant had failed when he was already on the public road or that they had already been tipped off about the sting operation.

He added that sometimes the instructors ask applicants for bribes and don’t pay it to the traffic officers, rather keeping it for themselves.

Read more on:    fraud and corruption  |  pietermaritzburg

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