GEORGE NEWS - Questions on who is leading the municipal traffic department are still being raised. Traffic chief Donovan Saptoe was placed on precautionary suspension on 22 October last year, being accused of conduct which allegedly hampered service delivery and posed a threat to the functioning of the department.
Those in the know say the department is operating under difficult circumstances and lacks leadership during this lockdown period when it is most needed. This was confirmed by the suspended Saptoe, who said there is currently no acting traffic head, as was the case before the start of lockdown.
Director of Protection Services Steven Erasmus, however, last week assured the public that traffic services are being rendered optimally and that a senior manager had been appointed as acting traffic chief to, among other things, manage daily traffic operations.
This week George Herald again enquired whether an acting traffic head has been appointed, and asked for the identity of the official. Without mentioning any names, Municipal Manager Trevor Botha answered as follows: "The acting traffic manager indicated that he would prefer not to act during the Covid-19 containment period, but will, like the rest of his colleagues in the Anti-Land Occupation Unit and Law Enforcement Division, give his full cooperation to an experienced senior manager to ensure that the daily operational plans can be meticulously executed."
Botha said the various Covid-19-related actions are being coordinated as an effective response unit during this crisis period, with very effective centralised reporting.
"This takes place via the George JOC (Joint Operational Centre), among others, and the information is passed on to the District JOC, who on their turn inform those on provincial and national level. The successes achieved by traffic and the other sections due to this arrangement are self-evident," said Botha.
Last week, municipal spokesperson Chantel Edwards-Klose said Saptoe challenged the suspension and disciplinary proceedings in the Labour Court. She said the matter has not been finalised and is therefore sub judice.
According to Saptoe he has no court application pending against the municipality. "I responded in December to get an interdict against the municipality, but because they postponed the disciplinary hearing I was obliged to let it go for now. So currently there is no challenge."
George Herald reported last week that two officials who have been earmarked for the position as acting chief, both declined. Allegedly, one of the stumbling blocks was having to report to a civilian administrative person (working within the directorate) - and take operational instructions from such a person.
It has been alleged that such action could have legal consequences. Saptoe said it would be wrong to expose traffic officers and subject them to civilian guidance.
"In times of crisis, traffic is on the front line within the Directorate of Protection Services, but at this stage there is a lack of guidance and morale is already very low," he said.
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