Pretoria - Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has called for the driver of the vehicle that mowed down six joggers, killing five of them, in Johannesburg on Saturday to be charged with murder.
According to reports, the driver of a Mercedes-Benz ML500 rammed into the runners preparing for next month's Soweto Marathon at about 6am on the corner of Olifantsfontein and Lever roads in Midrand, Johannesburg.
Witnesses claim he was so drunk that he had to be reminded that he had driven into the group of joggers.
"We want to convey condolences to the families and colleagues of the group of joggers who were killed in this horrific road crash. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all during these difficult moments," Ndebele said.
"Following allegations that the driver of the vehicle was drunk, the driver should be charged with murder. We are calling upon the investigation team and Directorate of Public Prosecutions to ensure that, should there be evidence to suggest that the driver intentionally violated road traffic rules and drove in a reckless manner resulting in death, murder charges be brought against the driver," the Minister said.
Ndebele reiterated that road users who disobey the rules of the road would face the consequences of their actions.
"We have already commenced with our December festive season law enforcement operations, and we want to warn road users that no mercy will be shown to any person who commits any traffic violation," he said, adding that during this Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 to 2020 campaign, traffic law enforcement will be intensified without compromise in order to make our roads safe.
Yesterday 57 drunk drivers were arrested in Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape, and 29 drunk drivers were arrested in the Western Cape on Friday and Saturday.
At least 20 000 drunk drivers have been arrested across South Africa over the past eleven months.
From October 2010 to September 2011, 19 780 drunk drivers have been arrested.
In the Western Cape alone, almost 50 drivers have been sentenced to jail for drunk driving in the past year. Since 1 October 2010, 664 drivers have been sentenced in the province for drunk-driving offences, 47 of whom were sent directly to jail without the option of paying fines or serving another type of sentence.
One was jailed for four years, six for three years and the remaining 40 for between six months and two-and-a-half years. A further 12 had their licences cancelled.
As part of the new National Rolling Enforcement Plan (NREP) announced by Ndebele in September last year, from October 2010 to September 2011, 14 017 190 vehicles and drivers were checked, 5 978 981 fines issued for various traffic offences, 19 780 drunk drivers arrested and 53 341 un-roadworthy vehicles (the majority of which are buses and taxis) discontinued from use.
Meanwhile on Friday, a man was arrested for transporting 176 passengers in his bus in Mooinooi outside Brits, in the North West. He had overloaded the bus by 42 people. He was charged with gross overloading and would appear in the Brits Magistrate's court tomorrow.
During the past week as part of the pre-December holiday clean-up operation, more than 200 buses were removed from service in a clampdown on unroadworthy vehicles in Gauteng and the North West by the National Traffic Police (NTP).
Most common defects included brakes, tyres, windscreens, severe oil leaks and faded chevrons and contour markings.
On Thursday, Minister Ndebele and Gauteng MEC for Transport Ismail Vadi joined the NTP during an operation at the Putco Bus Depot in New Canada Road in Johannesburg.
Since 31 August 2011, more than 1 760 un-roadworthy buses and taxis have been taken off South Africa's roads, following Minister Ndebele's instruction that every bus and taxi must be stopped and checked.
From 31 August to 9 October 2011, 340 790 public transport vehicles were stopped and checked, 1 111 mini-buses, 653 buses and 355 trucks discontinued from use, 58 618 fines issued for various public transport offences, more than 1 478 public transport drivers arrested including 256 for drunk driving, 1,000 for overloading, 75 for excessive speed, 23 for reckless and/or negligent driving and 97 in connection with public transport permits.
Last month alone, more than 3 900 arrests were affected and 3,069 vehicles discontinued from use. From 1 to 30 September 2011, 1 033 070 vehicles and drivers were checked and 438 706 fines issued for various traffic offences. - BuaNews
JPSA holds a differenent view
Yesterday, JPSA sent out a media release appealing that the State refrain from calling for murder charges against people where drunk driving and culpable homicide charges can easily be made to stick and the accused can be jailed for significant periods of time. It appears that the Minister of Transport, who clearly has not been watching what happens when these criminals are charged inappropriately, is of a different view.
Yesterday, we wrote:
Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) wishes to extend its heartfelt and sincere condolences to the families of the 5 joggers killed by an allegedly drunk driver in Midrand this morning.We have been in contact with Superintendent Edna Mamonyane of the JMPD as well as the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Menzi Simelane from the NPA and we have offered to pay for the blood samples taken from the accused in this case to be analysed by a private laboratory so as to expedite the matter and bring it to a swift conclusion.We have also urged that the accused be charged with the appropriate charges of driving under the influence of alcohol as well as the alternate charges applicable to drink driving and with 5 counts of culpable homicide so as to increase the chances of successful prosecution resulting in as swift a manner as possible. If the proper procedures have been followed in this instance, there is no reason why this cannot be achieved.Whilst it has become fashionable to try to create sensation by charging people accused of similar crimes with murder, we feel that the State is being forced into an unenviable predicament of trying to prove intent of murder and this is neither necessary nor productive as it wastes valuable time and has not as yet yielded the desired results in similar cases. In fact, all it has done is to have delayed justice and wasted valuable court time.A motorist convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol can be imprisoned for up to 6 years (on a first offence) on the drink driving charge and 3 years per count of culpable homicide and JPSA will be pushing for the maximum sentence to be imposed in this instance.Driving under the influence of intoxicating substances is the Number 1 killer on our roads and JPSA has recently put a comprehensive proposal to a number of stakeholders to tackle this scourge effectively. People need to come to the realisation that driving under the influence of intoxicating substances has dire consequences and cannot and will not be tolerated any longer.
Please let's consider our actions
Please understand that the comments I have made do not result from some misguided, liberal view of how the criminal justice system should work. To the contrary, they come from extensive law enforcement experience and seeing what works and what doesn't.
The enormous waste of time and effort in the JubJub case for example has resulted in his case not having been finalised yet, where if the State had simply stuck to the charges of "driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs having a narcotic effect", as well as four counts of culpable homicide, he could already have been sentenced to 18 years in prison. People actually convicted of murder have been given way less harsh sentences in the past and it is really important to ensure that justice is swift and not delayed due to wanting to create sensation. We have no doubt that eventually one of these murder charges will in fact be proven, based on dolus eventualis (foreseeing that an action could result in a consequence) but that is going to take some doing on the part of a very skilled prosecutor. Just remember that there has been so little education of members of the public with respect to how their vehicles can kill people and how alcohol aggrivates this that it is not going to be easy to argue that an accused could have foreseen his or her actions leading to the death of another at the time they started drinking. The same thing goes for a person who overtakes in the face of oncoming traffic. They can simply argue that they had a reasonable expectation that they could make it.
Citing the example of Taxi Driver convicted for murder in 2009 for mowing down a lady riding a scooter is nowhere near the same thing as a drunk driver ploughing into six runners. Until such time as prosecutors are willing, and more importantly able to pursue convictions with the same vigour as defence attorneys try to get their clients acquitted, we will not have a successful prosecution for "road murder" resulting from reckless or negligent driving or drunk driving - unless the accused cannot afford a competent defence attorney. Sad, I know but I am afraid that it is the blatant truth.
In the meantime, alcohol producers must be compelled to pay a tax to be used exclusively for tackling drink driving by mounting roadblocks at all times of the day and night - as well as launching impactful anti-drinking advertising. This money must not go to government coffers to be squandered on parties (R7 million for SADC Decade of Action launch) or travel expenses (R50 million for DoT plus R35 million credit card expenses), it must come to those who give a damn about road safety and can make a difference if we are only given the money and the chance to do so!
But what the hell do I know anyway?