Life in the fast lane: SA’s celebrity speedsters

News of 5FM radio personality Gareth Cliff’s arrest for speeding caused a stir on Twitter on Tuesday and continued as a trending topic well into Wednesday under the #FreeGarethCliff hashtag.

Cliff was arrested on Tuesday night after apparently driving at 182km/h in a 120km/h zone in Lyttleton, Pretoria, returning from filming part of the Idols reality TV show in Durban.

Speaking to Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday morning, Cliff clarified: “I spent a couple of minutes behind bars, like a bad ass … but I was glad to be back home … You know how it is, you just want to get home because you’re exhausted, and before you know it there are blue [police] lights.”

Cliff is one of many of South Africa’s well-known personalities who have been caught on the wrong side of the law in a car — some with better excuses than others. We round up some of the memorable moments for South Africa’s speeding bigwigs.

  • DJ Sbu, then an Ukhozi FM favourite, was caught in December 2007 for driving a sponsored Audi TT at 257km/h. The radio personality, whose real name is Sbusiso Leope, was ordered to pay a fine of R7 000, and also handed a nine-month sentence, suspended for three years. The harshest punishment however was perhaps the fact that Audi took back its car, saying the company did not condone reckless driving. Quite right.
  • Another 5FM favourite DJ Fresh, AKA Thato Sikwane, was caught in August 2009 driving a Volkswagen Toureg at 161km/h on the N1 south in Johannesburg — a 120km/h zone. He was given the choice of a fine of R5 000 or three months in prison for his wrongdoing. He chose to pay the fine, but not before ranting on Twitter about how unfair the system was.
  • Dan Kgothule, Free State minister for sport, arts, culture and recreation, was caught driving 235km/h on December 30 2010 on the N1 highway outside Bloemfontein, breaking provincial records. He was arrested and later released on R2 000 bail. He has since been ordered to pay a R20 000 fine (with R15 000 due immediately) or spend 12 months in prison. The remaining R5 000 or three months of the sentence, were suspended for five years. His spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said. “We consider the sentence appropriate under the circumstances.” Indeed.
  • Jackson Mthembu, ANC spokesperson, was arrested in Cape Town for drunk-driving on the N2 in the early hours of March 11 2010. Mthembu was three times over the legal limit. Not letting his arrest get in the way of doing his job, he conducted an interview with the South African Press Agency while in police custody and defended ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema before bursting into song. He later pleaded guilty and was fined R12 000, of which R6 000 was suspended for five years. He was also fined R500 for driving in the bus lane. All Jackson could say at the time was, “I’m sorry for what I have done. I’m sorry for letting you down.”
  • Judge Nkola Motata crashed his car into the perimeter wall of a house in Hurlingham, north of Johannesburg, in January 2007. The owner, Richard Baird, testified against him. Motata admitted to sharing a bottle of wine with a friend at a Randburg restaurant on the night of the accident, adding that he had a cup of tea before driving home. After crashing his Jaguar, Motata slurred to bystanders: “All of you, let me tell you, my brothers and sisters — these people should not catch us. Let us live, we are the majority and this is our land. It is not the land of the boers, even if they have big bodies. South Africa is ours, we rule it.” After a lengthy trial, it was found that the judge was indeed drunk on the night and was ordered to pay a fine of R20 000 or spend 12 months in prison.

    Motata lost an appeal against his conviction. Judge impaired judgement it seems.

  • Robert McBride, former Ekurhuleni metro police chief, was arrested in December 2006 for drunk-driving. While driving home from a Christmas party, his state-owned car rolled on the R511 highway near Centurion. McBride now faces charges of fraud, defeating the ends of justice and drunken driving. He told the court that a day before the accident he had a blackout at a stop sign because the dosage of his diabetic medication had been increased by his doctor. He also said that he only had a soft drink at the party.
  • Lolly Jackson, the now deceased strip-club franchise owner, was fined R20 000 for driving 249km/h in his Lamborghini in July 2005. His response? “Last week I donated R100 000 to charity and not a word in the media, but because I get caught speeding, I get crucified and ridiculed by radio talkshow hosts.” The saintly Jackson’s reason for speeding was that he was late for church. It seems that God waits for no man.
  • Kerishnie Naicker, a former Miss South Africa, was caught driving at 190km/h on a KwaZulu-Natal highway in her official car, sporting an expired licence, in 1999. She tried to get off the hook by saying she was rushing to see a sick uncle in hospital, as well as — also rumoured — boasting of her close relationship with former president Nelson Mandela. She was fined R10 000 for speeding. Perhaps a case of more beauty than brains?
Gavin Foster
Gavin Foster
Gavin Foster works from Seaham. Managing editor of the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail Gavin Foster has over 725 followers on Twitter.
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