Our hero this week is the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport – it’s acted against fraud and corruption uncovered at the North Coast Vehicle Testing Station in the community of Phoenix, north-west of Durban. In the process it has potentially saved lives too.

A statement issued on Thursday by the department reveals that a joint operation by law enforcement agencies has resulted in the discovery of irregular activities at the station – specifically, the issuing of false vehicle roadworthy certificates, which can reportedly be bought for around R450.

The agencies involved were the KZN transport department, the Road Traffic Management Corporation, and the police service’s Organised Crime Unit.

According to the statement, the provincial department of transport has suspended operations at the testing station – however, other media reports state that the station is still in business, leading to some confusion.

A department spokesperson also said that this station is the same one which issued a roadworthy certificate for a truck that in September 2013 careened through a Pinetown intersection and killed 24 people. Three station employees were arrested in December, although it was not clear if they were connected with the accident.

Willies Mchunu, MEC for transport, community safety and liaison, said that falsely certifying vehicles as roadworthy undermines efforts by the government to cut down on road deaths. South Africa is noted for its high proportion of road fatalities – in 2013 the country was ranked by the International Transport Forum, in its annual road safety report, as the worst of the 36 countries surveyed, in terms of the number of road deaths. Road fatalities per 100 000 of the population stood at 27.6 deaths in 2011, compared to countries like Australia with 5.6, or even other developing countries, such as Cambodia at 13.1, or Jamaica at 11.3.

“In many accidents, we have observed that unroadworthy vehicles, with all types of faults, have often been cited as major contributing factors,” said Mchunu, “and it is all because of individuals who have no respect for our laws and people’s lives. This bold decision by the department is a clear indication that we will deal harshly with all those who break the law, especially vehicle roadworthiness and driver licence testing stations.”

For acting against fraud and corruption uncovered at a vehicle testing station in the community of Phoenix – and potentially saving lives too – our hero this week is the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport.