Metro police vow to arrest beggars who direct traffic during load-shedding

The Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) plans to arrest beggars who direct traffic at busy intersections during load-shedding.

The feedback was in response to a query from MyBroadband regarding the department’s position on the rise in beggars, car guards, and street vendors acting as traffic pointsmen when robots go down during power outages.

Residents in parts of the City of Tshwane have complained about how scarce it was to see TMPD officers assisting at many of these intersections during those times and praised the unofficial “pointsmen” for stepping in.

Some also reward them for their actions by throwing money out the window as they drive through the intersection.

In some instances, TMPD officers have been seen chasing beggars away from intersections experiencing traffic flow problems due to load-shedding. However, instead of taking over, the officers would drive off.

Last week, the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) called on traffic authorities in the country to do more to deploy personnel to these areas, specifically in rush-hour traffic.

“Private sector pointsmen [such as those offered by Outsurance] are dispatched to certain areas, but other, busier intersections are ignored. This creates a vacuum for ‘good Samaritans’ to step in,” the AA said.

TMPD senior superintendent Isaac Mahamba said that the department was planning future operations to arrest beggars who regulate traffic as they were “impersonating traffic officers” and presented a danger to themselves and motorists.

Mahamba said that the Road Traffic Act of 1996 stated that only a peace officer in full uniform and with training was allowed to regulate traffic.

“The city won’t take any responsibility for the accidents that may be caused by these beggars,” said Mahamba, echoing previous comments by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department on the same issue.

“We urge beggars to refrain from entering into those intersections because they are not trained to regulate traffic, or they will face the law.”

TMPD officer directing traffic at an intersection on Es’kia Mpahlele Drive

The AA has highlighted that the government-appointed Traffic Law Enforcement Review Committee’s 2019 report found that South Africa needed twice the number of traffic officials it had.

Mahamba did not comment on whether the department had a shortage of officers.

He did state that it had a duty to regulate traffic at non-functional robots and intersections to create a free traffic flow, not only during load-shedding but also when traffic was congested.

However, he said that TMPD had other time-consuming responsibilities — including enforcing bylaws and conducting other crime prevention operations.

“[The] focus is not only on load-shedding. We have a duty to perform other functions as stipulated by law, and [it] is the role of other law enforcement urgencies to assist TMPD where we are unable to deploy,” said Mahamba.

The AA has bemoaned the traffic law enforcement authorities focusing on setting up roadblocks to check for expired vehicle licence discs or driving licences, often close to where traffic lights were not functioning.

“Too often, a roadblock is set up with the purpose of checking documents,” the AA said.

“While this is an important function, their relevance must be weighed against the immediate need for free-flowing traffic and the safety of motorists.”

“If resources are too thinly spread, the deployment schedules of traffic law enforcers must be revisited, and priority must be given to addressing problems caused by rolling blackouts instead of checking for expired discs and licences.”

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Metro police vow to arrest beggars who direct traffic during load-shedding