Cheating drivers put death on roads
'Infrared pen' stunt exposes widespread fraudulent issuing of driver's licences
Corrupt traffic officials who help prospective learner drivers cheat on their tests are driving SA's road carnage through the roof.
In a week in which five examiners and several learners appeared on fraud charges in the special commercial crime court in Durban, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) has conceded that licensing scams are one of the "major contributing factors behind the high levels of crashes and fatalities on SA's roads".
The latest RTMC report shows that between July and September 2018, human factors contributed to 63% of fatal crashes in SA, followed by road and environmental factors at 33.9%.
The accused examiners, Dumisani Nkala, Lindiwe Xulu, Meshack Ndlovu, Matthew Zondi and Dumisani Phungula, allegedly used infrared pens to point out correct answers to prospective drivers desperate to secure their learner driver permits.
According to the charge sheet, more than 500 prospective learner drivers are suspected of being issued with fraudulent permits at the Umngeni Howick testing station.
A government crackdown at licence testing stations throughout SA recently exposed the alleged fraudulent scheme of examiners at the testing station, along with those who paid a fee in a bid to pass.
Apart from the five, a further nine people who allegedly "benefited from the scheme", according to the RTMC, are also expected to appear in court on related charges.
It is understood that the RTMC's national traffic anti-corruption unit seized video footage of the accused allegedly assisting learner drivers to pass their test.
Prosecutor Ashika Lucken told the court on Tuesday that the matter could not proceed to pre-trial because the defence had not seen the charge sheet.
The matter was adjourned to March 7 and bail was extended.
But the fraud is not confined to KwaZulu-Natal. The Howick examiners are part of a larger group of 13 officials from licensing offices across the country who stand accused of fraudulently issuing roadworthy certificates and learners licences.
RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane said the Howick matter was one of "the cases that were investigated by the RTMC's national traffic anti-corruption unit".
"It cannot be denied that this is one of the major contributing factors behind the high levels of road crashes and fatalities in the country," he said.
"Many other examiners have been arrested in other provinces including Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga."
Advocate Johan Jonck of Arrive Alive agreed that the graft pervading testing stations was "most certainly a very important aspect contributing to road carnage in SA".
"There are too many drivers on the road who have not been thoroughly tested," he said.
"We are also aware of drivers who have not even gone through the testing process.
"We emphasise that if you pay or accept a bribe either to avoid a traffic fine or to get a driving licence you are contributing to continued road carnage in SA.
"Bribery and corruption in traffic enforcement is not a victimless crime - it allows reckless and unqualified drivers to share the roads with our loved ones - often causing death and injury."
Jonck said it "is founded in personal financial greed and no stone should be left unturned by authorities to root this out".
The Automobile Association's Layton Beard said: "If you have a driver who is not properly endorsed to be on the road, and that endorsement doesn't come from a thorough examination for a learner and driver's licence, then you are putting somebody dangerous on the road.
"It is of great concern to us. The people who are committing this fraud know what they are doing. They know they are putting dangerous people on the road.
"In my view, the charges should be more than corruption and fraud.
"You are giving somebody a loaded gun, basically, and that person doesn't know how to fire that gun.
"It's not only that examiners are putting unlicensed drivers on the road, in many cases they are passing vehicles which are unroadworthy, and that's equally bad.
"There has to be a strong message to the public that if they engage in this kind of corruption they are not going to get away with a slap on the wrist, there are serious consequences."