/ 22 November 2016

​GP traffic cops chief is ‘hijacking’ vehicles amid a vehicle shortage

Gauteng traffic police at a meeting on September 27 to discuss the way forward for a department on the brink of collapse.
Gauteng traffic police at a meeting on September 27 to discuss the way forward for a department on the brink of collapse.

The Gauteng traffic police unit has been plagued by patrol car shortages — but it hasn’t perturbed the provincial community safety’s head of department, Yoliswa Makhasi, who stands accused of using an official government escort for work travel.

This despite receiving a monthly travel allowance for that very purpose.

Since taking up her post in February, Makhasi has been using traffic police vehicles — meant to patrol and enforce the law on provincial roads — and has changed drivers three times.

“She demands to be escorted by officers who are meant to be out on the road patrolling. So far, she’s gone through three drivers because she has an issue with them,” said an officer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation.

“What’s worse is she is being escorted with official [traffic police unit] vehicles; she’s actually hijacking the vehicles from us,” added the source.

Last month the Mail & Guardian revealed how nearly 200 officers had been sitting at home on full pay for four months because of the shortage of patrol cars and uniforms , along with cuts in overtime and bonus allowances.

The department said more money would be allocated to the unit in the next financial year and undertook to repair the fleet of vehicles that had been damaged in accidents.

Officers say that working conditions have deteriorated over the past two years and they complained of travelling five to a car and operating with limited resources.

“People are scrambling over who should get the cars. They are given to their favourites, like [employees who were friendly with] the superintendent,” said a traffic officer who works in one of the Johannesburg regions.

Another irate traffic officer also claimed that patrol cars are allocated on the basis of favouritism.

He alleged that the superintendent’s “favourite” was responsible for four accidents — two involving Golf 5s and two involving Golf 6s. The cars were patrol vehicles.

“Each time he receives a new car,” said the traffic officer. “Why is he still given resources?” he asked.

The employees’ union, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), said morale among the Gauteng traffic officers was at an all time low this year.

“It’s urgent [that our concerns are resolved]. It’s now the festive season and we don’t want to compromise the road safety campaign … but our members must be attended to. It won’t help anyone if our members are frustrated and unhappy. We are not happy at all,” said Popcru Gauteng secretary, Lerata Motsiri.

Since the M&G revealed the extent of the shortages, a supervisor in the West Rand region said there had been a marked improvement in conditions there, with less than 10 officers now forced to stay at home on full pay as a result of vehicle shortages. The officer said a dispute over bonus payments was also nearing resolution.

“There’s been an improvement — we are still jam- packed into a car, but at least we are being assigned vehicles to do our jobs,” the supervisor said.

The traffic officers raised their discontent as early as September, when Popcru called a general meeting at the traffic police vehicle pound in Germiston. Since then the union has requested a series of meetings with Makhasi, which have been postponed each time. Motsiri said Makhasi had not met the union representatives since she took up office in February.

“The employer (community safety department) will always come with apologies and excuses when they are supposed to attend to these issues. Popcru already requested a bilateral meeting with the HOD [head of department] because she usually stays away from the meetings.

“The matter on the agenda is the HOD’s relationship with the workforce. The allegations of her using government vehicles will be followed up on and put to the HOD in that meeting. Hopefully we will raise these issues with her by next week,” Motsiri added.

The provincial community safety department was approached for comment on Wednesday November 16, but had not responded by the time of publication.