Laingsburg Blitz Road Block Diary
Department of Transport and Public Works’ Abduragmaan Barnes, Zikhona Sikatele and Al-Ameen Kafaar chronicled the activities which took place at the road block in Laingsburg on 21 March 2013, Human Rights Day.
20.15: We are approximately seven kilometres outside Laingsburg on the N1, Touwsriver side. On the other side of Laingsburg the stretch of road to Beaufort West, commonly known as the Road of Death starts.
It is a balmy evening after 36 degrees Celsius maximum in Laingsburg. The bright lights are kept alive by the droning generator.
Principal Provincial Inspector (PPI) MB Fuzani, Provincial Inspector (PI) A Bayana, PI DG Jansen, PI AL Dreyer and Pl DO Jefta (all of Laingsburg Provincial Traffic) and Abduragmaan Barnes and Sikona Sikatela of Transport and Public Works' Safety and Compliance Directorate, as well as Warrant Officer WT Carelse of Laingsburg South African Police Services (Saps) are huddled together in a green and white tent next to a rest area.
PPI Fuzanie is doing the briefing before the roadblock.
“We’ll make an assessment at 12 tonight,” he said.
The briefing ends and we hit the auxiliary road that leads to the tables and chairs of the rest area next to the N1.
The first truck, a 24-wheeler is pulled off. The smell of diesel and tyres on tarmac is nauseating.
This is dangerous work.
DO Jefta dexterously evades a hissing horse and trailer. In one of the minibus taxis that was stopped, the music plays merrily and the passengers seem happy.
The young woman next to the open window says they are on their way to Alice to bury her grandmother. In the first song that ended while I was talking to her the prayer is for a safe journey. The prayer in the second song is for God to wipe away their tears.
An Avanza with a Ceres registration is stopped. Eight people are in the car. The passenger limit for that car is seven. Not a single passenger wears a seatbelt. The fine is R700 for the seven passengers without seatbelts and additional R600 for overloading.
21.15: Taxis are being pulled off thick and fast.
A Somali taxi driver is one of them. Apparently he is a regular and he does several trips a week to the Eastern Cape. Tonight he has five passengers in the front seat.
Another driver is pulled off. There are two more people in the vehicle than what is legally allowed.
There is now a steady flow of drivers into the tent. They are handed:
- Safely Home brochures and breathalysers.
- UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 T-shirts and caps.
The driver with the two illegal passengers wanted to his pay his R200 immediately.
“You cannot pay the fine here,” explained AL Dreyer. He does not seem to understand. Language barriers prevent effective communication.
Zikhona Sikatele translates. It seems to go a bit better. But then an argument ensues. Zikhona keeps her cool. Besides the work being tough, you also need a cool head. A.L. Dreyer gives him his fine. He walks off very annoyed.
22.15: Road block has been going on for two hours. Zikhona is confidently doing educational work. The United Nations’ Decade of Action T-shirts and peak caps are in demand. Before the drivers get a cap or T-shirt they have to listen to a short piece of information from Zikhona .
Zikhona seems to relish her job.
Her enthusiasm is contagious and in spite of facing a fine, a driver in a red shirt appears to be in a jovial mood.
At least 10 minibus taxis are now lined up for inspection. Each one pulls a trailer and each one appears to be on its way to the Eastern Cape. The drivers are brought into the tent and given a bottle of water as well as promotional items. By doing this, drivers will at least get a 15 minute break before they start to travel the Road of Death.
Another taxi driver is brought into the tent for a trade number plate. He is not allowed to transport passengers if his vehicle has trade plates. Apparently the dealer who sold him the car did not explain that to him. He is pleading for a verbal warning. It is not going to happen. He gladly accepts a bottle of water and a T-shirt with his fine.
23.15: Things are quieting down. Even the amount of traffic on the N1 seems to have subsided. Most of the vehicles waiting for inspection are private passenger cars. A bakkie pulling a trailer on which the four walls of a wendy house are loaded is being pulled off. A bakkie with a load of canopies that seemed to reach heaven follows.
Then all of a sudden there is a burst of minibus taxis. Some of them are given T-shirts.
Midnight: PPI Fuzani walks into the tent. He looks at some figures from his PIs. Zikhona is beginning to pack up. The PIs are reporting to PPI Fuzani. They are calling it a night.
Roadblocks have been scheduled throughout the Easter Period.