KZN police facing breathalyser shortage as festive season looms

Sizwe Mchunu, MPP

Leader of the DA in KwaZulu-Natal / DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison

The Democratic Alliance is shocked to learn that as the festive season approaches, many eThekwini police officers allegedly do not have access to alcohol breathalysers.

The information comes via a reliable source who works extensively with the SAPS.  The same source has claimed that the eThekwini alcohol testing centre is only open on an ad hoc basis – usually Fridays and Saturdays – with police forced to phone ahead and find out whether it is open before they can plan operations.

The DA is extremely concerned by these claims.

Every year, the holidays are marred by carnage on our roads, in many cases the result of drunken driving.  Durban is a major destination for holiday-makers and there will be a major influx of people to our city.

SAPS members are given targets to reduce drunken driving and the KZN Community Safety department spends millions trying to educate the public.  Yet it appears that not all SAPS members are issued with the equipment which is essential to adequately enforce the law.

Without breathalysers, SAPS officers must rely largely on guess work as to whether a driver is under the influence. As a result they are not effective.

It is believed that many Durban police stations are affected and have simply been left to purchase their own devices.  In some cases Community Policing Forums have had to raise funds for this purpose.

A further concern is that SAPS members should be reliant on a municipal body to ensure efficient functionality – on this case the alcohol testing centre.  The inaccessibility of both the centre and the District surgeon is a major issue. It is ludicrous that it supposedly takes in the region of four hours to process one drunk driver at the district surgeon with two members in attendance.

We believe that the SAPS should have their own alcohol test centres with a qualified nursing sister. These could be established in all major centres. Knowing that they can actually achieve the set targets would make our SAPS members more productive and more motivated to perform these duties.

I have drafted questions for the province’s MEC for Community Safety in an attempt to gain clarity on both the issue of breathalysers and the alcohol testing centre.

I expect a swift response.

If the KwaZulu-Natal government is serious about reducing fatalities on our roads then it must issue police men and women with the equipment necessary to combat the cause.