Big Brother is watching ...
You may not have known this, but highways in Gauteng’s metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni are under constant surveillance from cameras, with incidents – some of the most horrific accidents and plain bizarre behaviour by motorists – regularly caught on camera.
Examples include a video of a motorcycle crashing into the back of a vehicle at high speed and that of a truck driver who stops his truck by the side of the highway on a Sunday afternoon, casually runs across the highway as vehicles whiz past to kiss a girl on the other side of the motorway.
These are some of the dozens of moments caught on at least 298 surveillance cameras watching the metros’ highways, live-streaming to SA National Roads Agency Limited’s (Sanral) hi-tech traffic monitoring centre in Centurion.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula inspected the centre yesterday, saying they wanted to demonstrate Sanral’s hi-tech capacity to monitor the highway.
He said similar systems were in place in Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, saying the centres were operational 24-hours a day and that they enable traffic officials and emergency services to respond to accidents within 10 minutes.
“This is the Big Brother house on the highways, to show that we are always watching,” Mbalula said.
He said the facility was launched in 2006 and was at its peak just before 2010, in time for the Fifa World Cup but said the hitech system was helpful in monitoring the high volume of festive season traffic on the highways.
The minister said the system was also accessible to other law enforcement agencies in case there was a criminal activity under way or if police wanted to trace a vehicle and that the footage was admissible in court as evidence.
“If you have a breakdown, you put on your hazard lights, put out your triangle and those monitoring the live-feed will be able to notice that you have a problem and dispatch assistance,” Mbalula said.
The centre’s manager Sipho Langa said the system was piloted along Ben Schoeman highway and proved efficient in responding to incidences and spotting suspicious activities.
“We use a CCTV system called PTZ. This means our cameras can pan, tilt and zoom,” he said.
In case of load-shedding or power failure, each camera has a two-hour backup battery and the centre itself has a backup generator.
This is the Big Brother house on the highways, to show that we are always watching.
Fikile Mbalula Transport Minister