By Matlhatsi Dibakwane
First published in The Star

“Mystery buyers” posing as motorists will be on Gauteng roads to catch corrupt traffic officers who demand bribes.

They would appear as ordinary motorists, but target those who continuously use the uniform for criminal acts, said MEC for Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane.

She was speaking during an event at the Mabopane Indoor Sports Centre where traffic officers were engaged in anti-corruption training. “We pay you, so please buy your own cooldrinks,” Nkosi-Malobane told the officers. “No one owes you a cooldrink. What they need from you is to respect them.”

She warned that those who behaved badly would be named and shamed, adding that they could all be good citizens “without a bank balance of millions”.

The MEC said some of the officers were arrogant as they did not respect the taxpayers who paid for their education at their college.

“Taxpayers invested in what you are today, so you owe it  to them to make sure you give them good service. Some of you are arrogant after being caught doing bribes, and you don’t deserve their respect,” she said.

Officers caught by the mystery buyers accepting bribes or taking part in corrupt activities would be criminally charged and then charged departmentally. “Internal hearings will take place, and if found guilty, remedial steps will be taken against them,” said SAPS Gauteng disciplinary officer Captain Solomon Monyamane.

“If found guilty, there are remedial steps taken by the SAPS; if found guilty for an admission of a serious misconduct, you will be dismissed. But if you are found not guilty, then you will be admitted back again and retained.”

Nkosi-Malobane also spoke about corruption and the recent spate of corrupt activities reportedly perpetrated by traffic officers. She said that since December last year, there had been “more than 17” arrests of police officers and some dismissals from the department, while others were currently on suspension.

According to Monyamane, a lot of officers taking bribes from motorists were fresh out of college. “There are many officers taking bribes because there are young members. They are taking part in corrupt dealings, and we found out that they do not get good mentoring from senior management. But we are dealing with it intensively,” he said.

He said that after arrests, they had trouble securing witnesses due to intimidation ahead of hearings. “We experience hiccups because they are intimidated and do not come forth, because sometimes they will be testifying’ in department hearings and also in criminal courts,” he said.

Monyamane said that to a lesser degree, the accused pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

Lifestyle audits would be done as of next month, said the chief director of the Gauteng traffic police, Stephen Podile. He said police officers went about “acts of corruption on a day-­to-day  basis”, knowing nothing would happen.

“But come October, you will be arrested,” Podile said.

• Image from Wikipedia