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By Thato Mahlangu

Investigations into bribery allegations at a Pretoria driving licence testing centre led to the arrest of a police imposter who had been taking bribes from motorists.

A joint operation by members of the South African Police Service’s (Saps) Gauteng anti-corruption unit and National Traffic Anti-Corruption Unit (NTACU) led to the arrest of the man on Friday, 31 January 2020.

Simon Zwane, spokesperson for the Road Traffic Management Corporation, said the man, who is said to have impersonated a police officer, is accused of asking motorists for bribes for new police clearance certificates.

“He is to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Monday,” Zwane said.

The power to end corruption lies with whistle-blowers

Zwane said the arrest was made after an investigation which was prompted by complaints received by NTACU. He said reporters of corruption worked with the unit in making sure that the man was brought to book.

“[These complaints were] alleging that a ‘police officer’ was demanding bribes before he could issue clearance certificates for vehicles that needed to be registered.”

According to Zwane, a police clearance certificate is required to register a vehicle that has been stolen and recovered.

“It is also required where an engine or chassis number differs from the number on the registration certificate,” he explained.

Collection of evidence

Zwane said members of NTACU, with the Saps unit, obtained sworn statements from a complaint and then proceeded to the driving licence testing centre where the man was arrested after taking a R400 bribe from a motorist.

“The money was found in the man’s possession,” Zwane added.

Zwane said it was discovered that the man was not a member of Saps but was in fact an impostor. “He was held in police custody at Silverton police station and will be facing charges of extortion and impersonating a police officer.”

Bribery in the police force

According to Corruption Watch’s Corruption in Uniform report, published in June 2019, high levels of corruption, including bribery (about 33% of cases which have been reported to us) show how police officers are involved in soliciting bribes from motorists for arbitrary reasons and the amounts run into the tens of thousands of rands.

As an example, researcher and author Melusi Ncala relates that in Gauteng, a complainant stated that a police vehicle followed her and her partner from a social gathering with friends and as they approached their home, which was 2km from the event, they were stopped, accused of driving under the influence without being tested, and asked for R1 000. Police bribery reports stand at 47% in the province.

“In other random stops and searches, motorists are asked to pay thousands of rands to continue driving their vehicles that are not roadworthy,” according to Ncala.