Police shut down New Year’s mischief makers

Five people were killed and two others were injured in a crash on the N3 near Ladysmith. Picture: IPSS Medical Rescue

Five people were killed and two others were injured in a crash on the N3 near Ladysmith. Picture: IPSS Medical Rescue

Published Dec 31, 2023


Durban — New Year’s revellers and overly-enthusiastic merrymakers who put themselves on the wrong side of the law must be prepared to face the consequences, warn police, who say they will also crack down on criminals.

Durban Metro Police acting commissioner Sibonelo Mchunu said his officers will increase their visibility at crime hot spots to ensure the New Year is ushered in crime-free. Among other things, he vowed to arrest and impound the vehicles of those who drag-raced in areas such as Springfield and uMhlanga.

Mchunu said they would also crack down on bottle stores and taverns that traded beyond permissible hours.

He said their beefed-up numbers had given them greater presence over the holiday season.

“Our members had to deal with fewer incidents of crime over the Christmas long weekend, which was due to our increased visibility.”

Mchunu said their “bobbies on the beat” and vehicles on patrol were proving effective.

Fatal road accidents are known to spike at this time of year.

One such crash claimed the life of Mbongeni Ngema, a celebrated playwright, actor, composer and singer.

Ngema was killed while returning from a funeral in Lusikisiki, in the Eastern Cape, on Wednesday evening.

Family spokesperson Nhlanhla Ngema said two other people in the vehicle were in hospital, in a critical condition.

According to the countrywide plan, which includes road awareness programmes and campaigns to curb the number of crashes and reduce fatalities, targets were set for each province.

KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape were identified as priority provinces as they have consistently contributed to about 80% of road fatalities each year.

Briefing the media last week, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said the Eastern Cape was the only one of the five provinces that had so far succeeded in reducing crashes and fatalities.

“However, the period ahead is going to be especially challenging in holiday destinations because of an expected increase in traffic, parties, festivities, weddings and traditional functions.”

According to figures released on December 22, 719 road deaths were recorded in the first three weeks of the 2023/24 festive season, compared to 751 in the same period last year.

The highest number of deaths was recorded in Gauteng (187). The Eastern Cape had 59 deaths, 41% lower than the previous year. KZN recorded 135 deaths, a 6.35% decrease on the 2022/23 figure.

KZN Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Sindi kaNgidi Msimang said they had maintained high visibility.

“We’ve run many alcohol roadblocks, which were a success. Drinking and driving remains an issue in the province as it continues to contribute to the carnage and fatalities on our roads.”

In the Pietermaritzburg CBD, they had stopped a 40-year-old woman who was five times over the legal alcohol limit, Msimang said.

“She panicked when she realised she was going to be arrested and attempted to flee.”

Msimang said the driver of an articulated truck was detained without bail last week, after officers stopped the vehicle in the Kokstad area.

“The vehicle speed was not permitted to exceed 80km/h, but (it) travelled at 150km/h.”

She said they would continue to maintain high visibility during the holiday period.

Dylan Meyrick, spokesperson for IPSS Medical Rescue, said the KZN coast was fairly quiet, but there were two horrific incidents in Ladysmith recently.

“One had five fatalities and the other had three. Both were head-on collisions on the N3. Light motor vehicles were involved on both occasions, with one of the vehicles crossing over the centre median in each instance.”

Meyrick said some team members were also involved with flood rescue missions in Ladysmith. On Christmas Eve, heavy rains lashed the area, causing the local Klip River and Bell’s Spruit to flood. Rescue teams searched for 11 people who were reported missing.

Twelve bodies were recovered.

Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi, the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, said: “People who drowned there were mostly those who lived informally near the river and refused to heed calls to be relocated.”

Sithole-Moloi said about 1400 households had been affected by last week’s heavy rains, with 16 people reported dead, including a boy who was washed away in the Mandeni area. Seven people were still missing.

SAPS KZN spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said “typical crimes” (assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and assault common) had been prevalent. In keeping with their “Safer Festive Season Operational Plan”, he said no officer was on leave and, with the availability of new constables, police had extra numbers on the ground.

“The operations and visibility will be maintained until after the conclusion of the season’s festivities, and key deployment will be maintained at identified areas,” Netshiunda said.

Sunday Tribune