1/5/2008South Africa: Speed Camera Garden Gnome Irks Police
A website documenting South Africa's covert speed camera traps draws angry words from local police.
South African police officials are up in arms about a website that ridicules the secretive use of speed cameras throughout the country. The site, speedtraps.co.za, offers a forum for users to discuss speed trap locations in each region of the country, similar to the National Motorists Association's Speed Trap Exchange in the US. Speedtrap.co.za's gallery also offers photographs of camouflaged speed cameras, shirtless speed trap operators and -- most offensively for the police -- a garden gnome placed atop a speed camera in Pietermaritzburg, a town in KwaZulu-Natal.
"We cannot entertain motorists who treat the traffic cameras as a joke," Durban metro police Senior Superintendent Thozamile Tyala told the Johannesburg Star newspaper. "We won't stand for people making fun of the speed cameras. This is not the first time the website has made fun of them."
Despite the righteous indignation, South African officials have been involved in a number of far more serious speed camera-related scandals. In 2006, Cape Town police went on a "booze cruise" funded by the company that was seeking to defend its contract to issue speed camera tickets. Over the course of three years, Labat had been caught illegally issuing more than 81,000 photo citations, placing its revenue sharing deals with police in jeopardy. Courts have thrown out bogus tickets issued in Tshwane, Cape Town and elsewhere. A motorist videotaped a provincial traffic chief in the Free State town of Parys on New Year's Day in 2006 operating a speed camera trap while intoxicated.