POPCRU calls for traffic law enforcement overhaul

6th February 2024

POPCRU calls for traffic law enforcement overhaul

Following the release of the 2023/2024 festive season road fatality numbers, the Police and Prisons Civil Right Union (POPCRU) is seeking an urgent meeting with the Department of Transport. POPCRU President Thulani Ngwenya has invited Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga to discuss a comprehensive strategy to unify the country’s many traffic divisions and bolster their abilities to protect our country’s roads.

The statistics revealed that 1,427 people died on South Africa’s roads over the holiday period – a 2.3% decline from to the 2022/2023 festive season. Ngwenya describes this decrease as a step in the right, but says that more can be done.

“We welcome honourable Minister Chikunga’s promise during her recent festive season statistics media briefing to meet with POPCRU to discuss how we can improve traffic law enforcement countrywide. After extensive consultations with our traffic police members, and receiving valuable input from academics, researchers, and community organisations during the 2023 Policing Indaba, we have put together a list of key focus areas and implementable solutions that could make our roads safer and save lives,” he notes.

“As South Africans, we must all recognise the tireless efforts of our traffic officials who, while facing incredible difficulties, are keeping road incidents as low as possible with limited numbers and resources. So, if government wishes to make a significant impact on these road incident statistics a year from now, during the next festive season, there are several national reformations that must be made.”

To address shortcomings in South Africa’s traffic law enforcement sector, POPCRU’s proposal to Minister Chikunga will emphasise two core solutions: nationalising traffic police, and strengthening its tools, resources, and capacity.

Nationalising traffic police and centralising the policymaking process

POPCRU has urged government to urgently address the lack of coordination and consistency regarding traffic law enforcement among the nine provinces. According to Ngwenya, each province is free to implement and enforce certain policies, procedures, and standards, irrespective of what other provinces are doing. This often results in confusion and inefficiency, hindering the sector from responding effectively and adapting to the changing needs and challenges of the road environment.

 “We need to realign the many traffic departments across the provinces to one central command structure. We cannot have different rules for traffic police who are located within different departments within the same province, or different structures between our provinces,” he says.

POPCRU is likewise concerned that the current disjointed approach to traffic law enforcement creates the possibility for different interpretations and execution of certain traffic laws, which leads to confusion among drivers who travel across provinces.

It is also considerably more challenging to coordinate efforts on an inter-provincial level during, for example, emergencies and large-scale operations. Additionally, some jurisdictional conflicts may arise between different command structures, especially in areas where provincial boundaries are not clear. A centralised command structure will be able to implement standardised regulations and processes nationally.

As such, POPCRU has called for the nationalisation of traffic police under the Department of Traffic to heighten their effectivity as a force in fighting crime and road carnage.

Bolstering traffic law enforcement numbers

Ngwenya states that POPCRU is alarmed by the low number of active traffic officials on South Africa’s roads, who are stretched too thin to perform their work effectively.

He notes that only around 15,000 traffic officials are responsible for the country’s more than 60 million residents, most of whom are drivers, commuters, or pedestrians in some capacity, and its more than 750,000 kilometres roadways. That translates to one official responsible for the safety of an average of 4,000 South Africans, and safeguarding more than 400 kilometres of road each.

“This small amount of traffic officials cannot be everywhere at once, and they cannot work all hours of the day. Additionally, some of these members are office-bound staff, further reducing the number of boots on the ground.”

There are several additional issues that POPCRU intends to discuss with the minister, including: a lack of uniforms and equipment; extended working hours with little to no compensation; conditions of service; work-related risk factors; upward mobility within the traffic law enforcement structure; and deteriorating road conditions.

“Our goal should be zero deaths on our roads – anything else would be a disservice to our traffic law enforcement officials and the South Africans they have sworn to protect. We look forward to our first engagement with Minister Chikunga so that we can resolve the serious issues plaguing our members and the country’s various traffic departments,” concludes Ngwenya.

Issued by the Police and Prisons Civil Right Union