Police get tough on illegal drag racers

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Police in Newcastle in northern KwaZulu-Natal have warned drag racers that racing on public roads will not be tolerated.

The warning comes after an illegal drag race claimed the life of a local teacher at Osizweni township at the weekend.

Siyamukela High School accounting teacher Sifiso Buthelezi, 25, died after a "dragster" in a BMW ploughed into a crowd at the side of the road on Sunday. Buthelezi was among the bystanders and died while being transported to a local hospital.

Themba Ngcongo, who narrowly escaped death in the same incident, told Sowetan how terrified people had scattered in all directions as the BMW headed in their direction.

"We fled in all directions, but Themba was not so lucky. Many others could have been hurt," he said.

He said that though races did not happen regularly, this was not the first time they'd taken place in Osizweni. He said several cars had taken part in the race.

Local municipality manager Abdul Hoosen expressed shock at Buthelezi's death.

"We knew nothing about the event. There was no application for the event. If there was we would not have approved it. The racing is illegal on public roads," he said.

Bheki Cele, MEC for transport, community safety and liaison said: "I'm surprised that there are people who conduct drag racing in our townships. It is illegal. The driver of that vehicle should be arrested."

He urged the local road safety committee to inform police about races in the future.

"We should act before someone else is killed," he said.

Police spokesman Shooz Magudulela said a case of culpable homicide was being investigated, but that the driver had not yet been arrested.

"We are taking this case very seriously. The detectives have been collecting more evidence. We will release further details as soon as possible," he said.