Shut Down of Name and Shame Campaign Has Deadly Consequences
Statement by Robin Carlisle, Minister of Transport and Public Works
Between August 2010 and November 2012, the Western Cape’s Safely Home campaign, in partnership with LeadSA, named and shamed all individuals convicted of drink driving offences in the Province. This campaign has been shut down by the national Department of Justice.
The campaign was carried out only after legal opinions had been obtained and was run subject to stringent quality control measures. The campaign relied on court records supplied in terms of the National Road Traffic Act (1996) to the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works. The national Department of Justice initially simply ordered the courts to stop supplying the records. It then later ordered them to supply a truncated record which excluded the offence and sentence of the culprit.
This action has come in the wake of the successful challenge to the use of breathalysers for drink driving law enforcement, itself a serious blow to road safety in South Africa, one which has undoubtedly cost many lives.
After several engagements with the Department of Justice by both myself and officials from the Department of Transport and Public Works, I then wrote to the Minister of Justice, Jeff Radebe, on 6 June 2013, to insist that the order to shut down the campaign be reversed.
The letter was copied to LeadSA heads Yusuf Abramjee and Chris Whitfield. Mr Abramjee released the letter publicly via Twitter on 12 June 2013, hence the decision to address the media on the issue immediately.
The Safely Home campaign has been pivotal in achieving a 30% decrease in road traffic fatalities in the province since 2009. The Name and Shame campaign carried out in partnership with LeadSA has been a key component, by helping to stigmatise drink driving.
Name and Shame’s effects were particularly apparent in drink driving arrest statistics, which responded strongly to the monthly publication of the names in the Cape Argus. Drink driving arrests had decreased from an average of 60 arrests per weekend, to 25 arrests.
In the wake of the campaign, a surge occurred in the number of businesses providing services to get people home safely after drinking. This saw new businesses such as Drive U Home, Home Heroes and Scooter Angels join established services such as Goodfellas and metered taxis.
Early indications from morgue body counts indicate that drinking and driving is on the up again following the removal of breathalysers and the shutting down of the Name and Shame campaign.
In the past, the fight against drink driving was aided by:
- The detection of drunk drivers, usually in the many Weekend Alcohol Blitzes conducted across the Province.
- The rapid confirmation of breath-alcohol levels using the breathalyser system.
- Early court appearances and convictions.
- The convicted parties being named and shamed publically.
This combination had a huge impact on bringing down the death rate in the Province, which is now beginning to rise again.
With the loss of breathalysers as an enforcement tool, and drink driving prosecutions having to rely on blood samples from laboratories with delays of often a year, offenders and possible killers like Mr L Mahlati remain on our roads, threatening the lives of others.
Mr Mahlati is only expected to see a courtroom in January 2014 for an incident that occurred on 24 December 2012 where he was caught driving in excess of 140 km/h in a 60 km/h zone.
The reasons furnished by the National Department of Justice are administrative adjustments, which cite “legal compliance” as their goal, but which appear to serve no practical purpose other than to shut down an effective, award-winning road safety campaign, without replacing it with any alternative.
The Medical Research Council’s research indicates more than 17 500 people are being killed on our roads each year. The longer we remain without effective tools to combat drink driving, the more lives will be senselessly lost.
If the shutting down of Name and Shame in the DA-run Western Cape has been done for political purposes, then the ANC are effectively trading lives for political gain. The first of those trade-offs have already suffered the ultimate price.
National Transport Minister Ben Martins has said that he will support measures employed by this government to curb the scourge of drink driving and the unnecessary loss of life. I hope that this means that I will have his full support on this matter. I urge Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Jeff Radebe, and his colleagues in the national cabinet, to start taking road safety seriously.
His speedy response and action in restoring the Name and Shame campaign will literally mean the difference between life and death.