Dullah Omar has criticised KwaZulu-Natal’s zero tolerance policy, saying it has not been effective, but the area’s MEC for transport says Omar’s failure to implement a demerit system is to blame for the high death toll.

Dullah Omar has criticised KwaZulu-Natal’s zero tolerance policy, saying it has not been effective, but the area’s MEC for transport says Omar’s failure to implement a demerit system is to blame for the high death toll.

The national transport minister was commenting on the fact that most of the deaths on SA’s roads this season have been in KwaZulu-Natal, with 222 people dying in December. "The KwaZulu-Natal zero tolerance hasn't helped, has it? The mention of the words 'zero tolerance' is fine, but it often becomes just a slogan," he told the .

But KwaZulu-Natal MEC for transport S'bu Ndebele said the toll would have been lower in his province if Omar had introduced the much-talked out demerit system.

He said traffic fines were totally meaningless. "We have imposed hefty fines on reckless drivers, we have mobile stations on our main roads, there is a roadside court in KwaZulu-Natal and we have hi-tech cameras to trap motorists, but still they are not deterred,” he told the newspaper.

"One motorist, who was trapped after exceeding the speed limit, told officers on the scene that he was speeding because he was bored," said Ndebele.

He said if motorists broke the law in the province from March they would have their licences suspended. "We've been talking about this legislation since '97," Ndebele said.

"After a first offence, a licence will be endorsed, which means the driver will be let off with a warning. "If the driver commits another offence, his licence will be suspended for a period of between three and six months and if he then breaks another rule, the licence will be cancelled."

“If you drive recklessly we have only two choices, to allow you to continue killing and maiming other people or suspending or cancelling your licence,” he said.

Ndebele said the system will begin in the rest of the country in June. “What keeps the American, Australian or European driver from reckless driving is not sainthood, but the ever present possibility of losing his/her licence for six months, a year, or five years. When the road death toll reached 20 in one Australian province it was seen as a major crisis and a commission of inquiry was instituted. At that time the road death toll in South Africa was 700,” he said.

Ndebele said the death toll was high in the province because of the increased traffic to KZN. "During the festive season, we find a huge influx of cars to the province."