SOME of the country’s most dangerous roads may be left unpatrolled on weekends and public holidays as the festive season approaches.
Eastern Cape traffic officers decided this week not to work any more overtime because they have not been paid for previous overtime work.
More than 50 provincial traffic officers met to discuss the nonpayment of overtime, and took the decision to no longer work on weekends or public holidays for the foreseeable future.
Roads that will go unpatrolled include the N2 between East London and Mthatha, one of the country’s most dangerous roads.
Others are the R72 between East London and Port Alfred; the R346 between King William’s Town and Stutterheim; and the N6 between East London and Cathcart.
The transport department has warned officers they will be breaking the law if they do not work and could face disciplinary action.
“The department cannot have officers not working on our roads, that cannot be allowed,” said spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca.
The Wednesday meeting in Wilsonia was attended by traffic officers from East London, Butterworth and Fort Beaufort.
The East London traffic office has 83 traffic officers, Fort Beaufort 17 and Butterworth 22.
Officers can earn from R3 000 to R5 000 overtime a month depending on employees’ grades.
This is not the first time the non-payment of overtime has been raised.
In June about 500 officers embarked on a go-slow when a decision to stop paying them overtime was announced by the department.
At the time a Dispatch team travelled the N2 from Berlin to the Kei Bridge traffic station and not a single traffic officer was seen.
The Daily Dispatch spoke to at least three officers who confirmed that the “stayaway” was beginning this weekend.
Officers said the department of transport had failed to pay their overtime for both September and October.
“The department is sitting on our overtime claims that we submitted in August for September and in September for October,” said a traffic officer who attended the meeting.
He said they would now work normal Monday to Friday shifts.
“We will go back to working our 6am to 2pm shifts, while our relievers will work their 2pm to 10pm shifts and that’s it,” the officer said.
Another said: “The agreement with the employer is that we work 40 hours and anything more than that is overtime.
“Here in East London we work hard because in a month we arrest more than 90 people for offences including drunken driving, driving without licences and vehicle fitness offences.”
Kumbaca said department leadership had given clear instructions “a long time ago” on how overtime should be paid.
“The only overtime owed to traffic officers is for the month of September 2013.
“October only finished [yesterday]. The payment took a little longer due to an administrative glitch which has been resolved.”
Kumbaca said the department wanted to assure Eastern Cape road users that traffic officers would be on the roads every day, especially over the festive season.
Popcru provincial secretary Simphiwe Komna said they were aware of the Wednesday meeting but had not sanctioned the officers’ actions.
Democratic Alliance DA MPL Dacre Haddon said: “It is very important that we make every plan available to accommodate these traffic officers.
“There are high numbers of accidents on our roads during the festive season and the lack of traffic officers will exacerbate the problem.”
Bernadette Makaula, who chairs the portfolio committee on transport at the Bhisho Legislature, said the issue had not been brought to her attention.
ANC provincial spokesman Oscar Mabuyane could not be reached for comment. —