Traffic officials accused of receiving bribe money

Local traffic officials are accused of soliciting bribes from abnormal load trucks on a regular basis. (This photo was taken as an example. No evidence of any criminal activity exists for this particular incident).

This is the claim made by several independent sources.

Frustrated victims claim that they are being bullied by traffic officers when it comes to abnormal loads that have to travel through Middelburg. The Middelburg Observer has spoken to at least five independent sources with knowledge of the matter. All of them requested to stay anonymous out of fear of being unfairly targeted by traffic officials.

The first source is a contractor at a mine who is currently moving his workshop to new premises.

This leaves him with no choice other than to move heavy equipment and machinery through Middelburg by means of a low-bed truck. They have paid careful attention to detail to make sure that they adhere to all aspects of the road act as well as making use of accompanying vehicles to escort the trucks to their destination.

The man says that ever since local traffic officials became aware of the truck’s daily route, they have been waiting for it at a specific place. Once the truck has been pulled over, the source claims that officials find any mistake they possibly can. Once a mistake has been identified, the driver is threatened with either paying a bribe or having his truck impounded. As the days progressed, the company managed to jump through all the hoops set by traffic officials.

It was then that things got really ridiculous. A traffic official, who could not find any fault with the truck, resorted to saying that the chevron boards put up were wrong; they were supposed to be red on white whilst the ones on the truck were white on red. It was also something not addressed during the previous incidents.

The man admitted to paying around R2 000 in bribe money per day, saying that there simply was no other option.

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•Another source says that he smelled a rat when he was informed that a delivery by low-bed was delayed because it was pulled over by traffic officials. The man drove to the place the truck was standing, only to find the driver missing. The co-driver informed him that the driver was taken to an ATM to draw money, by traffic officials.

The man took a video when the driver returned with traffic officials. They vehemently denied that any money was taken and speedily drove off. The driver initially denied paying them anything on camera, but later confessed that he paid them R2 000.

The matter was reported to the Traffic Department and the driver had to give a statement as well as a bank notification when the money was withdrawn, to his employer.

•During a third incident, a traffic official called himself “the boss of the road” and threatened to teach a man, who dared question his interpretation of the road act, a lesson by making an example of him.

As with the other incidents, they were forced to pay a bribe or have their vehicle impounded. They paid the official R500 to be allowed to travel to their business premises. The following day, two officials arrived to escort the vehicle through town. Both officials had to be paid money again.

•A fourth source says that low-beds being pulled over is a daily occurrence.

The choice is always the same, pay a bribe or have your truck impounded. He says the average amount of bribe money per load is R1 500.

When traffic officials are contacted prior to the abnormal load entering Middelburg, to escort it through town, they often do not come, says the source.

• A transport company from KwaZulu Natal says that bribing traffic officials has become a common occurrence, not only in Middelburg.

One of their vehicles were once pulled over and the traffic official found fault with a mirror that was 100mm lower than it was supposed to be.

“The threat of impounding brings a lot of complications. If freight has to get to the harbor in time to be loaded onto a ship, a couple of days’ delay can be catastrophic, traffic cops know that. So you pay the bribe, you move your mirror up a hair width, and you carry on.”

•A businessman who has extensive experience with abnormal loads was called by someone who wanted to find out what the allowed width of an abnormal load on the road was. He replied that the allowed width in Middelburg is R1 000.

•Anyone with similar experiences can contact [email protected] All information will be handled confidentially.

  AUTHOR
Jana Boshoff
Journalist

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