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Bad news for corrupt traffic cop

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The bad news for a corrupt Northern Cape traffic official shortly before Christmas is that his earlier R10 000 fine for bribery, is that he now has to pay a fine of R60 000 after the State appealed his lenient sentence.

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THE BAD news for a corrupt Northern Cape traffic official shortly before Christmas is that his earlier R10,000 fine for bribing a speeding motorist, who was taking his wife who was in labour to hospital, is that he now has to pay a fine of R60,000 after the State appealed his lenient sentence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Northern Cape turned to the Kimberley High Court to appeal the sentence meted out to two traffic officers – Oscar Bongela and Lebogang Tosa – who solicited a bribe from a speeding motorist.

The lower court sentenced the pair in September 2020. The magistrate ordered them to pay a R10,000 fine, which could be paid in instalments.

Both officials were traffic officers in Upington when they were convicted of corruption.

The Director of Public Prosecutions argued that the trial court earlier understated the nature and seriousness of the offence, given the fact that it was committed by public officers soliciting a bribe from a person who acted, on the face of it, out of necessity.

The prosecuting authority further argued that the magistrate understated the interests of the community and that the imposed sentences under the circumstances were shockingly inappropriately light (lenient).

The Director of Public Prosecutions said the magistrate should have imposed direct imprisonment as part of the sentence.

Tosa died before the Director of Public Prosecutions’s appeal was heard.

Northern Cape High Court Judge Mpho Mamosebo said the sentence handed down by the trial court was fatally flawed and not judicial.

Apart from increasing Bongela’s R10 000 fine to R60 000, Judge Mamosebo said the fact that Bongela remained employed by the traffic department was “mystifying”.

While Bongela has paid a portion of his earlier R10,000 fine, the judge has now ordered that the payment of the full balance of the R60,000 fine be paid in full by the end of January.

Bongela was senior in rank to Tosa on the day of the incident. Both traffic officers were posted near the Olifantshoek/Upington main road when they solicited a bribe of R1,000 from motorist Robert Doncaster.

Doncaster was rushing his wife, who was in labour, to hospital and driving his vehicle at a high speed.

Not having money on him, Doncaster drove into town, claiming that he was going to withdraw the required bribe money. He, however, approached the police and they set a trap for the two officers.

The police gave him marked money as part of the operation to pay the bribe. He was also strapped with a recording device and the police remained in proximity, but not visible.

The R1,000 was paid to Tosa, who gave Bongela R300.

Bongela took the R300 and stashed it in the cubbyhole of the state vehicle.

Doncaster gave a signal to the police, who then pounced on the two officers. The R1,000 was retrieved.

When questioned by the police regarding the money, Bongela’s explanation was that Tosa had owed him an amount of R300 and had settled his debt.

The court heard that Bongela had seen and heard when the R1 000 was counted before being handed over to Tosa. He had also heard Tosa instructing Doncaster to wait for a vehicle to pass first before handing the money to him.

Judge Mamosebo said it was plain that the two officers had acted in common purpose and that Bongela had associated himself with what Tosa was doing. She said he was the senior of the two officers.

On appeal, Judge Mamosebo said that corruption, as expressed by so many courts, was a cancer that must be dealt with harshly.

“It erodes the moral fibre of our constitutional democracy. The regional magistrate has indeed overemphasised the respondent’s personal circumstances, thereby downplaying the seriousness of the offence and the consequences and impact on society.”

She added that it was inconsiderate and even callous of the officers to demand a bribe from a person who was clearly acting out of necessity, caused by his child’s impending birth.

The judge said the R10,000 fine was far too lenient. In increasing it to R60,000, the judge said: “I have also had regard to the fact that Bongela has retained his remunerative employment throughout. It is therefore up to him to devise some means to pay the fine, in default whereof he must serve the time. The magistrate was too generous with the deferred fine.”

She ordered that if he did not pay the fine, he had to face three years in jail.

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