When I received an email from a biker on Monday 23 May 2016,
I could hardly believe what I was reading.
The motorcyclist’s version is that on Friday 20 May 2016, a
SANRAL employee in a marked double-cab bakkie with one of those fancy red light
bars on its roof attempted to kill, or at the very least, cause serious harm to
I am really surprised that this incident has received no
media coverage at all but I suspect that this is about to change now.
Anyone who knows me will know that, whilst I am inclined to
typically take the side of victims of abusive behaviour by officials, I will
always actively seek the truth and get both versions. This incident is no
Motorcyclists are amongst the most vulnerable road users on
the road and are furthermore the most vulnerable among all other motor vehicle
classes. Therefore, it should be understandable why they would seek to keep
their distance from other motor vehicles. It’s illegal for them to do so, but
scores of them ride in the far right hard shoulder, to the right of the road
The biker’s version of what happened…
At or about 07:45 on Friday 20 May 2016, the 59 year-old
biker was riding his BMW R1200GS motorcycle to the right of the edge marking on
the N1 North between the Malibongwe and William Nicol exits when allegedly, suddenly
and without warning, a marked SANRAL double-cab Ford Ranger bakkie came tearing
across the five lanes there, from the far left shoulder lane (most often
referred to as the “emergency lane”) and forced him into the concrete division
barrier between the Northbound and Southbound sections of the freeway.
Although the biker saw him coming, he says the rapid rate at
which the bakkie crossed the freeway left him with no time to react and he and
his motorcycle were trapped between the bakkie and the barrier for a distance
of around 40 metres until the bakkie came to a halt.
Both of his feet were trapped, the right between the bike
and the concrete barrier, the left between the bike and the bakkie.
The driver climbed out of the bakkie, shouted at him for
riding in the “emergency lane”, then walked away to use his cell phone. The
biker pleaded for help to get his feet free, but was ignored by the driver as well
as the two passengers in the bakkie. A bystander then assisted him in getting free.
A JMPD car with 3 occupants who had witnessed the incident
stopped and took control of the scene, putting out traffic cones and directing
traffic; which the SANRAL employees failed to do.
One of the metro police officers took the names, licence
details etc. from the drivers, passengers and witnesses. The biker was, in the
meantime, transported by Emer-G-Med to Sunninghill Hospital for treatment.
He was treated for multiple lacerations and a broken left
hand, and discharged from hospital later that afternoon. He’s lucky to have
gotten away with such minor injuries since he could quite easily have sustained
serious injuries to his legs had he not been riding the BMW which has a “boxer
engine” with its cylinders protruding to the left and right of a motorcyclists
legs. His motorcycle is a write-off, having sustained extensive engine, frame
and body damage.
Although SAPS were not particularly cooperative in taking his complaint, which I might add is becoming
all too common these days, on Saturday 21 May, the biker laid charges of
attempted murder, malicious damage to property and reckless or negligent
driving with SAPS and he has received a CAS number from the police station in
TETI Traffic (Pty) Ltd’s version of what happened…
Anyone who knows SANRAL will know that, despite vehicles
being branded in their regalia, that State Owned Corporation directly employs a
mere handful of people (some 200 according to SANRAL).
Almost every part of the “services” on the GFIP are
contracted out to private “service providers” and the incident management
services on the GFIP appears to be no exception, hence this version coming from
TETI Traffic (Pty) Ltd.
TETI alleges that the driver of the SANRAL branded bakkie
was responding to a crash which had occurred in the “inner fast lane” (whatever
that is supposed to be) further on and that its employee was responding to it
in order to go and secure the scene.
They allege that the driver has admitted that he did not
look in his rear view or side mirrors and did not do his observations prior to
changing lanes, but had switched on his red flashing lights and siren and
proceeded from the far left to the far right “emergency lanes” in order to do
this. This is an admission of guilt to both, reckless and negligent driving.
They allegedly further claim that their driver “assisted the
biker in slowing down” [by colliding with him], thus preventing him from
crashing into the crash scene further on, but offer no explanation whatsoever
as to why their driver and crew did not secure the crash scene their driver
caused and did not assist the injured motorcyclist.
They furthermore accuse JPSA of “spreading misinformation”
because of a tweet I authored on Tuesday 24 May.
I have asked TETI Traffic’s Operations Manager to furnish
their driver’s sworn affidavit, as well as the HCPSA registration certificate
relating to the medic who should have been in this vehicle to me, but at the
time of going to press, he has failed to do either.
Three sides to every story…
It’s almost always true that there are three sides to every
story – one person’s version, the other person’s version, and the truth. This
case is no exception.
Since I am not of the habit of simply swallowing one
person’s version, I have gone to the trouble of speaking to an independent
witness to this collision. While I was establishing these facts, unbeknown to
me another person I know had consulted with TETI to get their version and this
has saved me the need to have done so, which incidentally, was to be the next
step in JPSA’s enquiries into this incident.
This independent witness’ version of the events just so
happens to have fully corroborated the biker’s version and his sworn statement
is to be filed to assist the Court in adjudicating this matter. Interestingly,
his version further contradicts TETI’s driver’s version since he states that
the flow of traffic was normal (around 80km/h) for that time of the morning on
the N1, upon which he drives every single workday.
The only legitimate arbiter
There is only one legitimate arbiter to matters of
criminality, and that arbiter is a properly constituted Court of Law. Due to
the fact that reckless or negligent driving is a criminal offence, this matter
must come before a criminal Court.
This said, public opinion cannot be discounted and you will
never be able to stop people from having an opinion, particularly in the age of
I am not aware of any official media statement having been
made by TETI Traffic and/or SANRAL relating to this incident but I would not be
in the least bit surprised if they do issue an official statement after this
story breaks in the mainstream media.
Fortunately for all concerned, our Courts do not rely on
spin and/or subjective opinion but merely take the facts into account. It is
therefore an absolute must that this matter must be heard by the Court.
My take on this matter
I am more inclined to accept the version of the motorcyclist
and the independent witness, not merely because of my inherent dislike for SANRAL’s
cowboys, but because the unaltered
photographic evidence which has been presented clearly shows that the
motorcycle was pinned between the concrete barrier and the SANRAL/TETI Traffic
The person depicted in the one photo is a paramedic from
Emer-G-Med, not the motorcyclist or any of the “SANRAL” staff.
It is abundantly clear that the bakkie was not moved to the
left in order to assist the motorcyclist in getting free and the scrape marks
on the concrete barrier appear to indicate that it took around 40 metres for
the vehicles to come to a halt.
In light of the statement from the one independent witness,
as well as the biker’s version to the effect that traffic was flowing normally
for that time in the morning, I find it very difficult to buy the story that
there was a collision further on and that was why the SANRAL bakkie swerved
across five lanes of traffic (seven if you take the “emergency lanes into
This said, that freeway is monitored by CCTV which SANRAL likes
to call its “cameras watching over you” and therefore there should be video
footage showing both, the alleged crash ahead, as well as this crash and it
will be interesting to see both.
Nonetheless, I find the statement that TETI’s driver
“assisted the biker in slowing down” by colliding with him to be both,
sarcastic and offensive in the extreme.
The biker was injured and could have been seriously injured
or even killed had he not been riding a BMW motorcycle which has a “boxer
engine” and protected his legs from serious injury at the very least.
I have repeatedly said that bikers should not be using the
“suicide lane” to start with, but there is and can be no excuse whatsoever for
the actions of this TETI Traffic employee. It was either gross negligence and
reckless driving or a deliberate attempt to take the biker out.
It is the duty of the Metro Police, the Gauteng Traffic
Police and the RTMC’s National Traffic Police to enforce road traffic laws on
the GFIP and other public roads. It is also their duty to pay due care and
regard for other traffic at all times, including but not limited to when they
pursue and/or stop motorists for traffic violations.
It is NOT the job
of SANRAL and/or its freeway management contractors to enforce traffic laws
since NONE of them are qualified
traffic officers. Even if they were, NO-ONE
has the right to endanger the life of another road user, regardless of what
mode of transport they are using!
In terms of the AARTO Act, riding in the right hand shoulder
lane is the subject of a R500 fine (R250 if paid within 32 days). It is NOT an offence for which summary execution is authorised!
The easiest way to ensure greater compliance with the law is
for traffic law enforcement authorities to enforce it – properly. But we all
know that they don’t and that’s why there’s such mayhem on our roads.
Additionally, the reason those SANRAL vehicles are allowed
to have and use red light bars in the first place is because they are all supposed to have at least one medic in
If that was the case in this incident then the Health
Professions Council of South Africa (HCPSA) is going to get a strongly worded
complaint against the medic for the dereliction of duty that person exhibited.
If the vehicle didn’t however have a qualified and registered medic in it, then
charges will be laid in terms of the National Road Traffic Act for the
unauthorised use of red flashing lamps and that vehicle must be impounded, just
like happens to civilians.
If a judicial officer finds TETI Traffic’s driver innocent, we
will have to accept that verdict, but if he or she finds him guilty then I hope
that driver faces the full might of the law and that TETI and/or SANRAL does
the right thing and compensates the motorcyclist properly. They should also
both avoid trying to spin their justifications for this incident and rather
concentrate on trying to repair their truly awful reputation with motorists
using all forms of transportation.
At 16:25 on Friday 27 May, I received the following response from Mr Kwnale Simelane if TETI Traffic Management:
"GoodDay Mr Dembovsky
you for the email below. Please can you respectfully direct your request to
SANRAL as the contractual employer of TETI Traffic and the registered owner of
the vehicle involved.
I responded as follows:
"Dear Mr Simelane.
Thank you for your response, which I may add, I am
somewhat bemused by.
Am I to understand that is now your stance that the
persons operating SANRAL’s vehicles are not in fact your employees and that you
have made averments to Mr Gwangwadza which you are not prepared to back up in
your response to me?
I have asked you for the sworn statement by your
driver and for the HCPSA certificate of the medic in that vehicle, both of whom
I respectfully submit it is reasonable to presume are your employees. I also
respectfully submit that these were entirely reasonable requests.
I shall of course comply with your request submit
my request directly to SANRAL, whom I am pretty sure will refer me back to you.