JOHANNESBURG – On Sunday 13 July 2014, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) staged a roadblock on the N1 motorway between Beyers Naude Drive and Malibongwe Drive and vice versa in both directions on the motorway.
On learning about the gridlock caused in both directions – which led to unacceptably long delays of motorists travelling on the motorway, Justice Project South Africa made contact with Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar to request a copy of the authorisation for this roadblock issued in terms of Section 13(8) of the South African Police Service Act, 1995. In terms of this provision, the National or Provincial Commissioner may authorise roadblocks which infringe on the Constitution, in order to facilitate legitimate law enforcement exercises.
We were told by Minnaar that written authorisation had indeed been obtained from General Reddy; a SAPS Gauteng Cluster Commander stationed at Honeydew Police Station, but despite Minnaar’s undertaking to email the relevant authorisations to us, by 10:00 on Monday 14 July 2014, no such proof of the existence of these alleged authorisations have been forthcoming.
It was reported on the ANN7 News at 19:00 bulletin that this exercise, which lasted for and disrupted the free flow of traffic in both directions on the motorway for some six hours managed to net a whole “2 stolen motor vehicles, 7 unroadworthy motor vehicles, dozens of fines for vehicles with no number plates and dozens of fines for unlicensed motor vehicles”. It apparently did not yield a single driver under the influence of alcohol, any fraudulent driving licences, etc.
In the same bulletin, Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar stated that “in terms of Section 113(8) of the South African Police Act [sic] authorisation was obtained…” We point out that the South African Police Service Act, 1995 comprises 73 sections and therefore does not have a “Section 113(8)”.
JPSA has received complaints from numerous motorists who were caught up in the resulting traffic jams on one of Johannesburg’s busiest routes, some of whom were women travelling with small children and elderly people, Private Emergency Management Services including paramedics and others who despite being delayed for periods in excess of an hour were not stopped once they reached the officers manning these roadblocks.
The costs of mounting these exercises must have been enormous, considering the amount of JMPD personnel involved in them, the fact that they were mounted on a Sunday and overtime pay would have had to be paid to all of the officers concerned. The costs incurred by innocent motorists caught up in these exercises are immeasurable considering the volume of traffic caught up in them.
It is arguable that the same, or better results could have been achieved by the JMPD had it simply mounted a proper moving violation enforcement exercise involving the same number of officers and JMPD vehicles.
JPSA has lodged a complaint with JMPD Chief of Police, Zwelibanzi Nyanda through his Chief of Staff, Director Gerrie Gerneke and has copied its complaint to SAPS Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, General Mothiba, the Minister of Transport, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), the Public Protector and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). Further formal complaints are also being lodged with IPID and the office of the Public Protector.
JPSA has demanded that the JMPD provide a written undertaking to cease mounting roadblocks that are not properly and lawfully authorised by the National or Provincial Commissioner of the South African Police Service, failing which it will approach the High Court for remedy.
We have also demanded that the JMPD issue a directive to their officers instructing them to refrain from threatening motorists who have outstanding AARTO infringement notices with arrest, since the AARTO Act does not cater for Warrants of Arrest for unpaid traffic fines, but contains other legislated mechanisms to deal with them.
It is our contention that the roadblocks set up on Sunday 13 July 2014 and other roadblocks set up by the JMPD on a daily basis whereat they only stop motorists who have outstanding traffic fines, but delay innocent, law-abiding motorists in the process are both, abusive and unlawful and constitute a direct contravention of Section 21 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of movement.
JPSA has no problem whatsoever with and regularly encourages and applauds legitimate law enforcement operations but strongly objects to the abusive manner in which the JMPD generally exercises its powers, to the detriment of law-abiding motorists. We find such behaviour repugnant in sense of the word and consider it to be severely detrimental to legitimate law enforcement exercises and agencies.
Our letter of complaint to the JMPD can be viewed here.