/ 29 August 2008

‘Keep ’em coming, barman’

Thousands of football fans and players visiting South Africa for the 2010 Fifa World Cup could be excused if they take the country’s drunk driving laws with a pinch of salt.

The man tasked with safeguarding the biggest event this country has ever hosted is himself a drunk driver who will be tried for this crime for the third time in February 2009.

The Mail & Guardian has established that Linda Mti, the beleaguered former commissioner of correctional services, has a criminal record after being convicted in 1992 by a Port Elizabeth court for driving under the influence of alcohol and reckless and negligent driving.

Mti was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment or a R400 fine. At the time he was the ANC’s Eastern Cape chairperson.

Two years later he was appointed a member of Parliament, where he chaired the portfolio committee on safety and security, and in 1996 Cabinet assigned Mti to chair the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee.

In 2001 President Thabo Mbeki appointed Mti head of prisons, a position he vacated early and under a cloud in 2006 after being linked to companies whose multimillion-rand contracts with the department of correctional service form part of a fraud investigation by the Special Investigating Unit.

Mti was subsequently appointed head of security for the 2010 Local Organising Committee, but has since kept a low profile, with police Deputy National Commissioner André Pruis being the face of South Africa’s preparations to present a crime-free football World Cup in two years’ time.

Mti has been arrested at least three times for driving under the influence of alcohol.

  • The M&G has seen Mti’s 1992 criminal record, which shows the convictions for drunk driving and reckless and negligent driving.
  • In 2005 Mti, then prisons boss, was arrested outside Port Elizabeth’s Boardwalk Casino after being involved in an accident with another vehicle late at night. He was subsequently charged with drunk driving.The Herald reported that police at the scene of the accident claimed Mti was rude, asking whether they knew who he was. After initially withdrawing the charges, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has decided to push ahead with the case — on Wednesday the trial was postponed to February next year.
  • The Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court controversially acquitted Mti in June this year for allegedly crashing into another car while driving drunk in Johannesburg peak hour traffic in November 2006. The police officer at the scene said Mti asked him if he knew who he was. Blood tests showed that Mti was more than four times over the legal limit, but a botch-up by prosecutors, for which they were given written warnings by the NPA, led to him walking out of court a free man.

The M&G wasn’t successful in obtaining comment from Mbeki’s office, local organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan or Mti this week. Mbeki and Jordaan were asked whether they were aware of Mti’s criminal record before appointing him and why they deemed him a suitable appointee to a security portfolio. Mti previously blamed the media for portraying him as a drunk after his 2006 Johannesburg accident.