Parole for Maarohanye and Tshabalala sends ‘unfortunate’ road safety message

JOHANNESBURG – The release of Molemo ‘Jub Jub’ Maarohanye and Themba Tshabalala on parole today, after serving four years and one month of their respective eight year sentences for killing four schoolchildren and injuring a further two in 2010 sends a rather “unfortunate” message with respect to road safety.

Albeit that two of the three families of the victims reportedly said they would accept Maarohanye’s and Tshabalala’s parole if they apologised to them first, which forgiveness it is only their place to give; it must never be forgotten that enormous human suffering was inflicted by these two individuals and that this matter highlights the extreme danger posed by driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (DUI).

There are relatively few examples where offenders who drive whilst intoxicated kill others are convicted in our courts and subsequently receive the publicity associated with this particular case. The fact that these men were originally convicted of murder, which conviction was subsequently overturned, must also be taken into account since the combined events surrounding this matter weigh into people’s perceptions of Justice and in particular, the “deterrent factor” of sentencing.

It is suggested that the fact these men were “first-time offenders” is only applicable to the culpable homicide which resulted from this tragic event. Very few people who end up crashing and injuring and/or killing others are in fact first-time offenders when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Justice Project South Africa (JPSA), along with organisations such as South Africans Against Drunk Driving is of the view that a far greater emphasis and higher degrees of professionalism needs to be placed in the proactive detection and prosecution of intoxicated driving before anyone is injured or killed. While it is encouraging to see that a dramatically escalated volume of arrests for DUI took place over the “festive season”, if convictions do not result therefrom, these efforts would have been in vain.

It is a sad fact that relatively few DUI arrests result in convictions and this is largely due to prolonged and unjustifiable delays in evidential blood alcohol test results from the Department of Health. Rightly so; courts cannot and will not convict accused persons in the absence of reliable and scientifically provable evidence in “technical offences” where specific “tolerances” are prescribed.

“The proposed reintroduction of evidential breath alcohol testing (EBAT) in prosecution of driving under the influence of alcohol mooted by Western Cape authorities, after a moratorium thereon since 2012 cannot come soon enough,” says JPSA’s chairperson, Howard Dembovsky. “While lengthy terms of imprisonment after killing and/or maiming may serve as a ‘deterrent’ to a few people, for as long as intoxicated drivers think that the chances of it happening to them, and/or of being caught and convicted before it does is low, the scourge of intoxicated driving will continue,” he concluded.