No taxi policing over long weekend in overtime row

2019-08-05 15:00
Taxis parked on either side of Pietermaritz Street causing the traffic to gridlock on one of the city's busiest routes.

Taxis parked on either side of Pietermaritz Street causing the traffic to gridlock on one of the city's busiest routes.

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The unit that specialises in taxi violence and road compliance for the entire province has been told it will not be working over this week’s long weekend because of complications with overtime payments.

The Witness has information that the entire 52-member Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU) has been told it is “not needed” for the long weekend, despite the likely influx of holidaymakers into KwaZulu-Natal.

The KZN Department of Transport (DoT) this year introduced an overtime cap of 520 hours for Road Traffic Inspectorate and PTEU staff.

Previously, officers would get paid for call-outs to emergencies over and above their overtime payments.

The Witness previously reported that traffic officers deployed on Sundays could not handle the spate of truck attacks along the N3 a few months ago.

Now, sources say concerns that there would be serious shortages of staff on weekends and holidays have been realised.

The PTEU specialises in taxi conflicts and enforcement on public transport vehicles, including overloaded vehicles and roadworthiness.

“We are all off,” one source said. “The employer [the Department of Transport] said they do not require the services of officers as it does not comply with allocated [overtime] hours.

“I have never known of a long weekend where our services were not required,” the source claimed.

Sources claimed there was ongoing taxi conflict in the Esigodini area of Edendale, as well as parts of Port Shepstone, Umlazi, Newcastle and Mandini. “We are the only unit trained to deal with enforcement in taxis,” one source said.

In addition to this, there will likely be a lack of policing of public transport in heavy traffic along major routes because of the long weekend.

“We go out and impound vehicles that are not legally registered to operate … this is a key enforcement step to regulate taxis. Most people who use taxis travel home over long weekends.”

Department spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa did not respond directly to an inquiry as to whether the PTEU unit will be working this long weekend. However, he said an “annual safety plan to ensure police visibility, especially on holidays” was developed by the DoT.

He said workers’ overtime was budgeted for in the development of the plan to fall within each officers’ 520 hours.

Claude Naiker, the provincial manager for the Public Servants’ Association, which has lobbied on behalf of traffic officers for this overtime issue, said the fears that the overtime issue would lead to fewer officers on duty have rung true.

“We had a long discussion with the department [on Tuesday] and we told them that when an officer gets called to an emergency it eats into those 520 overtime hours, so officers are reluctant to work on weekends.

“Department representatives say it’s quiet on weekends, but you never know when an incident can happen,” he said.

Naiker said there will be a meeting with the KZN Department of Transport this month about a way forward.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  taxi policing

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