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11 November 2011 at 11:58 - Posted by Anonymous

Blue light bullies: President Zuma must stop the madness


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The Democratic Alliance (DA) extends its sympathy to the family of matric pupil Thomas Ferreira, who is in a critical condition after being hit by the official car of Gauteng MEC for Local Government and Housing, Humphrey Mmemezi.

This is the latest incident involving speeding ministerial convoys. President Zuma must now put a stop to this illegal practice, and force his Cabinet to comply with the law. Enough is enough.
 
I have today written to President Jacob Zuma urging him to stop the use of blue lights by all National Ministers and MECs as a matter of urgency. These restrictions have already been applied by the DA Provincial Government in the Western Cape.
 
There have been numerous incidents of blue light bullies recklessly ignoring the law on our roads in contravention of the National Road Traffic Act, which states that blue lights may only be used in cases of emergency. 
 
This provision is clearly being abused by self-important Ministers and MECs who think being late for a meeting, or missing a flight, constitutes an emergency. That is not an emergency, it is just bad planning. 
 
Recent incidents include:
  • In June 2008, a VIP officer on Jacob Zuma's armed convoy fired three shots at the vehicle of an 84-year-old motorist who was deemed a "threat".
  • In November 2008, a VIP officer attached to the KwaZulu-Natal Social Development MEC's security detail shot the tyre of a Mazda that did not move out of his way quickly enough, causing a head-on collision with a bakkie. At least six other people were injured, but the driver simply sped off.
  • In January 2009, a VIP officer on Kgalema Motlanthe's cavalcade shot an unarmed motorist after he "got too close" in the traffic, and officers subsequently seized and deleted material from a SABC cameraman who recorded part of the incident.
  •  In April 2009, a VIP unit officer on his way to collect the Mayor of Msunduzi spat in the eye of a woman motorist.
  • In February 2010, UCT student Chumani Maxwele was arrested at gunpoint by President Zuma's VIP unit and detained for 24 hours because he allegedly gestured at the President’s motorcade. Last month, the South African Human Rights Commission found that the police had violated Maxwele’s rights by arresting and detaining him.
At the time of Saturday’s accident, Mr Memezi’s ministerial vehicle had its blue lights on because he was rushing to an urgent meeting. But nothing is so urgent that it warrants risking the lives of other road-users and pedestrians. 
 
The DA Government in the Western Cape has already taken a number of steps to restrict the use of blue lights by VIP convoys in the province.
 
Last year, the Western Cape Cabinet passed a resolution which ordered that all blue lights and sirens be removed from the vehicles of Provincial Ministers. This was completed by Government Motor Transport on 24 November 2010. 
 
The Western Cape Government is also in the process of repealing the existing Provincial Road Traffic Act, which has become largely moribund due to the passage of both the National Land Transport Transition Act (“NLTTA”, 2000) and National Land Transport Act (“NLTA”, 2009). The replacement Act will allow the Western Cape Minister for Transport and Public Works to create regulations for the province within the strictures of Section 146 of the Constitution, which allows for provincial acts that supersede national acts. 
 
These regulations are intended to promote road safety and will include banning the use of blue lights by all government officials, including National Ministers visiting the Western Cape, other than in genuine emergencies. The recommended processes on how to proceed when it comes to drafting this replacement Act will serve before the Cabinet before December.
 
New regulations governing the use of blue lights will go a long way toward stopping the current abuse of power by VIP convoys. But the quickest way to stop this is for President Zuma to instruct National Ministers and MECs in the other eight provinces to stop using blue lights to push other road-users off the road.
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