Traffic unit stages sit-in

2019-11-26 16:51

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A unit tasked with clamping down on road transgressions by taxi operators stopped work on Monday in protest at allegedly not being rostered to work during the festive period because of an overtime cap.

The Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU), a 34-member division of the Road Traffic Inspectorate, on Monday staged a sit-in at its Mkondeni offices to protest a rule introduced this year that says an officer cannot exceed 520 overtime hours per year.

The strike may spill over into today, with sources telling The Witness that most officers have already exhausted their overtime limit, meaning none of them have been drafted to work overtime during December.

The overtime limit will only be renewed next March, sources said.

Officers staged a strike in an attempt to meet with their hierarchy to discuss the payment impasse.

This issue has been the bane of traffic cops this year, and was blamed for a serious lack of manpower patrolling the N3 highway during a spate of truck attacks in June.

The PTEU is responsible for ensuring taxis are roadworthy and properly licensed, and for intervening in taxi violence. The unit also clamps down on illegal operators.

Monday’s sit-in meant the PTEU was not available to effect arrests related to 83 vehicles recently impounded in Port Shepstone, sources said.

“We have not been rostered to cover any public holiday during December, which is the busiest period,” one officer said.

Officers said it was virtually impossible for them to carry out a normal day’s work without encroaching on their overtime.

“If we have to travel from, say, Pietermaritzburg to Margate to raid a taxi rank and we impound 100 vehicles and process the paperwork, and then return to Pietermaritzburg, all of that cannot be done within a normal eight-hour working day.

“We work with volatile issues within the taxi industry. Now we are aggravating the situation by taking up to a week to finalise the arrests on these vehicles simply because we have to stop working once the day is over,” an officer explained.

“It is impossible to travel and make all the arrests in an eight-hour shift.”

PTEU officers now fear that the public will be left vulnerable without their presence on the road, especially with the prevalence of unroadworthy taxis ferrying people long distances during the holiday season.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport did not respond to a query about the matter.

Howard Dembovsky, of Justice Project South Africa, said this situation showed that the department was more interested in money than public safety.

“If the unit is doing a sterling job then the department should make a plan. It’s all about the money, and that’s not necessarily what law enforcement should be about.”

Dembovsky said traffic volumes will increase on major routes during the festive period.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  traffic department

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