Nelson Mandela Bay’s 87 traffic cops up against it

Under-fire officials cite lack of staff and infrastructure

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One traffic officer in Nelson Mandela Bay has to serve 130,000 residents, due to staff shortages in the city’s safety and security department.
The city currently has 87 traffic officers in its employ.
The number of taxis in the Bay has grown to such an extent that the city’s taxi ranks cannot accommodate all of them, and the municipality has no control of permits issued to taxi owners.
There are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 taxis in the Bay.
The grim picture of the state of affairs in the city’s traffic and licensing department was revealed by traffic and licensing director Warren Prins and deputy chief Eric Tiso on Friday.
The pair were responding to some of the traffic-related questions posed by readers on the HeraldLIVE Facebook page.
Q: Why are traffic officers not visible across the city?
A: In PE, we divided the city into area south and area north.
You have six people to cover each area . . . if you have six officers in a shift per area per day, then you’ve got a good shift.
But people get sick; if people are sick then you could run a shift with three people.
We don’t have officers in Motherwell, Zwide, Kwazakhele, KwaMagxaki and in the northern areas simply because we don’t have staff. The last time we employed officers was during Nceba Faku’s era.
We are the only department in the city when we ask for people to be employed we are told there is no money.
Q: Why do we only see traffic officers at major events such as Ironman?
A: Ironman paid the municipality for services. The only time we are not paid for services is when we escort for funerals, but people are demanding that we be there and we have to [be there for funerals] because we don’t service areas under normal circumstances (due to staff shortages).
Q: Why is renewing your driver’s licence and PDPs so expensive?
A: We get our tariffs from the Eastern Cape department of transport. We are one of the most expensive provinces in the country [for] tariffs.
Q: Why is so much overtime claimed but we don’t see traffic officers on the road?
A: People pay for the events. The money [goes] to the municipality’s budget and treasury department and when employees claim for overtime we use our own budget.
We have so many events – for example the state president will be here this weekend and we have to bring on everybody because it’s our duty to man the roads and to play a role to escort the president. Then we will have 40 people on duty.
It’s the same situation when it comes to major events – we need more officers there.
Q: How do you determine where to deploy officers?
A: We look at major intersections and routes but we don’t always have people there.
Our major routes are Heugh Road which changes to Buffelsfontein, then to Walmer Boulevard. These are the places where we have to have vehicles.
But we need to have vehicles in KwaMagxaki, the N2, Cape Road, Kragga Kamma, Stanford Road . . . we also need to have vehicles in the CBD, Mount Road, etc. But . . . I only have six people per shift.
Q: Taxi drivers are a law unto themselves. Why are taxis allowed to stop wherever? Why can’t you do something about them?
A: We had meetings and asked who is issuing the permits to the taxis. We have mushrooming of taxi ranks everywhere and everybody asks why we are not stopping this but we are not included in the decision-making where we can decline some applications. The provincial department of transport receives applications and sends them to the metro for the final decision, but someone is approving all applications.
Q: Why can't traffic officers go to taxi ranks and check how roadworthy they are instead of accidents happening first?
A: There are several centres in the city where we test roadworthiness but we can’t test . . . while a taxi is parked at a rank.
Q: Buses are now acting like taxis – stopping wherever they like and blocking a whole lane in peak-time traffic.
A: 90% of the problems we are faced with are infrastructure-related problems. Sometimes we are told about taxis that cause obstructions in the road because there is no embayment but that is not a traffic-related problem, it’s an infrastructure-related problem.
The problem here is that the city is growing but the infrastructure is not developing.
Q: Where are they at crucial intersections [during] loadshedding?
A: We have a problem with cameras. The NDPP [national director of public prosecutions] recently granted us permission to act on taxis who disregard red traffic lights and drive in the wrong lanes.

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