There are two different types of roadblocks in South Africa: Informal roadblocks, which are set up at random (often on major roadways or at the end of an off-ramp), and then there’s the K78, a provincially or nationally-approved roadblock, where police officers can legally search vehicles and even conduct full body searches if required.
Here are some things to remember when approaching a roadblock:
You may gather evidence
If you believe traffic officers are violating your rights or abusing their authority you can gather evidence against them. You have the right to know and write down both the officer's badge number and the vehicle number (found on the side of their patrol car). Also, you have the legal right to film the events of a roadblock. An officer cannot stop you from taking a photo or video, seize or damage your equipment or force you to delete footage.
To report the incident you must phone 10111 and make sure you identify the officer(s) involved. Throughout the process remember to remain calm and act lawfully to protect yourself.
Officers have the right to stop any vehicle
An officer in uniform has the right to stop any motorist, thoroughly check the vehicle (inside and out) and request personal information of all passengers. Reasons may vary from routine checks, a traffic offence or to investigate possible stolen vehicles or suspicious drivers.
You can be arrested for verbally abusing an officer
You cannot be arrested for being rude, however, if your rudeness escalates to verbally abusing an officer you will be committing a crime in the form of crimen injuria - the intentional and unlawful infringement of the dignity of the officer. Obscene and racially offensive language or gestures are examples of abusive behaviour.
Effective roadblocks are a necessary evil that can lead to the arrest of drug traffickers and also stop unlicensed drivers and non-licensed vehicles. Thus making the road a safer place for all users.