A political row has exploded in the City of Cape Town over yesterday’s arrest of two councillors for unpaid traffic fines, with a senior mayoral committee member publicly denouncing the city for “embarrassing” a DA councillor.
And in another development the city has announced it plans to crack down on car hire and transport companies which owe millions of rand in unpaid fines.
Both councillors were taken to the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court, where they paid their outstanding fines and were released without appearing in court, as is the procedure for all motorists.
The DA’s Clement Mhlanga, a proportional representation (PR) councillor, had three warrants of arrest for three traffic offences. The city also named and shamed one independent and seven other ANC councillors.
ANC councillor for Ward 93 Amos Komeni was also arrested for a range of offences.
The blitz was part of Operation Reclaim, which netted several other motorists this week.
But the DA man’s arrest raised the ire of the party’s mayoral committee member (Mayco) for tourism events and marketing, Grant Pascoe, who tweeted yesterday: “I think it was wrong for them to arrest my colleague they (sic) way they did – cheap media stunt!”
Today Pascoe said he found it problematic that DA Mayco member JP Smith had authorised Mhlanga’s arrest.
Asked if he thought councillors should be politically protected from legitimate administrative action, he said: “No… But this should have been handled in the DA caucus.”
It is also alleged by various sources that Pascoe was enraged by Smith’s office’s involvement in the arrests, and that Pascoe expressed his fury to senior DA figures.
But the offices of the Speaker and mayor Patricia de Lille have strongly supported the action.
De Lille’s chief of staff, Paul Boughey, said: “The mayor firmly believes no one is above the law… the arrests were necessary. It sends a powerful message that we’re not going to treat them differently to members of the public.”
Speaker Dirk Smit said: “A councillor is no different to any member of the public. I gave them the opportunity as novices to come forward and address the matter – some of them came, some did not. I even went so far as to say that we would deduct the fines off the councillors’ salaries. So I don’t have any problem if the law takes its course.”
Yesterday, a further seven councillors with one outstanding warrant of arrest each were warned.
One of them, Kent Morkel, later complained to the Cape Argus that he had paid his fines on Wednesday afternoon. The Cape Argus has been told, however, that the city’s records still showed his outstanding fines at 6am yesterday.
But Morkel alleged: “This was politically motivated. Smith is targeting me for taking on the DA for wasting money on a stupid bylaw – barking doggies – instead of spending the money on poverty-stricken communities like Atlantis. This is them hitting back at Kent Morkel.”
Meanwhile, the city’s traffic department has released documents showing its “top 10” traffic offenders together owe more than R2 million, with more than 8 000 outstanding warrants of arrest (WOAs) against them. The fines and warrants are chalked up against individuals in the companies, who are referred to as “proxies” by the traffic department. According to city records the companies are:
* Imperial Capital: R581 300; 1 804 WOAs.
* Barloworldmotors: R489 150; 1 307 WOAs.
* Barloworld Motor: R398 800; 1 307 WOAs.
* Imperial Capital: R323 100; 1 027 WOAs.
* CMH Car Hire: R219 100; 698 WOAs.
* Budget Car Rental: R193 100; 610 WOAs.
* Debisfleet Management: R196 100; 577 WOAs.
* Barloworld Motor: R174 550; 555 WOAs.
* Budget Rent a Car – R145 450; 457 WOAs.
*& Unitrans Automotive: R135 650; 417 WOAs.
“We are holding a meeting next week to work out how to recoup the money.”