Ever heard the saying: Guns don’t kill people - people kill people? Does the same not ring true for drunk drivers’ cars, now that the Asset Forfeiture Unit can legally seize offenders’ vehicles?

Ever heard the saying: Guns don’t kill people - people kill people? Does the same not ring true for drunk drivers’ cars, now that the Asset Forfeiture Unit can legally seize offenders’ vehicles?


South African motorists this week learnt that authorities could confiscate a citizen’s vehicles if he or she was caught driving while being over the legal blood alcohol limit.


On Thursday, Judge Dennis Davis granted the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) an order in the Cape High Court to attach a drunken driver's vehicle after Benjamin Kleinbooi was found guilty of driving under this influence in Voortrekker Road, Laingsburg, on March 14. Kleinbooi’s Toyota Corolla has now been seized by the state.


National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Sipho Ngwema said they had decided to actively support the transport department's Arrive Alive campaign by "sending a strong message to drunken drivers and save lives".


Ngwema said the car was being attached as an instrument used in the commission of an offence, in the same way that a gun used in an unlawful shooting would be confiscated.


According to reports, the AFU will apply for a forfeiture order to permanently retain the car. This could take several months, but, depending on its condition, the car would eventually be auctioned or given to a state department to use.


Drive Alive chairman Moira Winslow said: "It is absolutely fantastic and I am thrilled. I've been telling them to do this for years. Let's take the Porsches and the Mercedes-Benzes and even the man-in-the-street's car if he is driving drunk. It only needs to happen about 10 times before drunk driving stops."


Western Cape traffic principal inspector Keith Holmes added: "Once this message gets through to people, it will act as a deterrent. I hope to see a further decrease in the accident rate due to less drunk driving."


However, the Automobile Association (AA) criticised the AFU for meddling in drunken driving cases, as it had been set up to deal with white-collar crime.


AA spokesman Gary Ronald said one in every 15 motorists on the road between 6pm and 12 midnight drove over the legal limit: "Our concern is that the seized vehicles might not belong to the driver, so this is not the appropriate punishment.


It could also be argued that by taking away a driver’s vehicle, the State may be depriving the offender’s family and/or dependents of their livelihood ie. getting to work or school, earning an income – possibly denying other licensed drivers’ a right to mobility.


"Although drunken drivers break the law, we question whether the activities of the AFU should cover drunken driving,” Ronald said. "The National Road Traffic Act already covers drunken driving offences and the punishment is up to six years in jail. The real issue is that people drive drunk because they are hardly ever caught, especially in metro areas, because policing is ineffective".