Road rogues be warned

If you'll be drinking this festive season and intend to have fun, forget the car!

If you'll be drinking this festive season and intend to have fun, forget the car!

This warning comes from the Johannesburg Metropolitan police department, through the mouth of their spokesman Superintendent Wayne Minnaar.

In fact, in their own words, the warning is even more ominous: "A zero tolerance approach will be applied to deal with all anti-social behaviour by people who intend to spoil the fun this festive season."

"Spoiling the fun", as all residents in the townships and the tenements will attest, happens each time revellers finish their bottle and suddenly, as if by magic, remember the antics of one Michael Schumacher.

The JMPD will have none of this!

Those guilty of this crime, according to the statistics of the traffic police department, are young people aged between 20 and 30 followed closely by those a decade older. For the period July to December 2007, Minnaar says they had been arresting 13 drunken drivers a day.

Rogues of the road beware: "This year the JMPD will arrest double the amount of drunken drivers as compared to other years."

Already, starting from last month, the men (and women) in their own shade of blue have nabbed 1864 drunken drivers - and, as you read this, those who drink haven't really started imbibing! The metro police have acquired contraptions called Intoximeters "which will test the breath of drunken drivers without taking a blood sample to check the level of alcohol in the perpetrator's system".

They have five of these clever machines, housed at their centre at the Wemmer Complex in Loveday Street.

"The moment a drunken driver is arrested he/she will be taken to an Intoximeter to be tested. The person must blow into the device for about 10 seconds, after which the Intoximeter will give four print-outs - one each to the suspect, the arresting officer and the testing officer, while the fourth is placed in the docket."

Their elation is understandable: "The Intoximeter will assist the JMPD in saving time."

Bad news indeed for all the Schumacher faithfuls who think driving under the influence is hip. The JMPD have you in their sights:

"We have realised that despite robust year-round drunken driving roadblocks, there are still many people who are totally ignoring the warnings not to drink and drive."

And you better find other uses for your year-end bonuses as not a dime will be taken in bribes.

The internal affairs unit of the JMPD is coming down hard on their own members who solicit and accept bribes from offending motorists, says Minnaar.

"Just the other day an officer was caught taking a R50 bribe from a motorist," says Minnaar, citing a recent case.

It is highly unlikely that the rest of the 1500-member force would want to spoil their careers for a paltry fifty bucks.

Should the money be burning gaping holes in your pocket, rather take advantage of the 50percent discount in all traffic fines, which ends on January 31.

Drunken drivers, who contribute a whopping 70percent to all road fatalities, are not the only bane of the madness on the roads. Car hijackers and other serious criminals are also on the menu of the JMPD this festive season.

Since seconding 60 of their officers to the SAPS flying squad, the unit has brought 269 criminals to book, recovered 97 hijacked/stolen vehicles and 28 unlicensed firearms.

As we sit in his office, the telephones ring unceasingly. A report that three hijackers have been arrested and two firearms recovered is just another routine call that comes through.

Minnaar is not at liberty to say where but he warns there will be 55 fixed roadblocks in the area under their jurisdiction and 1350 random roadside checks.

This is where all manner of malfeasance will be curtailed and the miscreants summarily dealt with.

Do not be a statistic, Minnaar warns, rather stay at home or do the right thing if the urge to be out on the road is overwhelming.

They will be everywhere - from the malls, city parks, taxi ranks to major routes.

The Johannesburg-born "and bred" Minnaar has always wanted to be a cop, he recalls. He does not remember a year in school where he was not a monitor: "I've always been an enforcer, to check if the shoes were polished and there was no noise."

When he left school, he knew it had to be for a job that would allow him a pressed uniform with shiny buttons and badges.

The clean-shaven Minnaar is as prim and proper as his neatly-pressed uniform, a set of which, thanks to his dutiful wife, he always carries in the boot of his car, irrespective of where he goes.

He jokes that he was at an SAPS awards function at the Orlando police station in Soweto recently in a black suit "and people did not recognise me".

This is what the uniform has done for him.

"I've owned a pair of Nike takkies for years now," he says. "They still look new."

The face of the JMPD in the news media, Minnaar is hardly ever in mufti and no one is complaining - except those, of course, who "want to spoil the fun".