• Prevention is key to protecting our homes from fire. In this month’s Community Safety Tips published from p52 in Servamus: September 2021, we share information about the common causes of fire and what you have to do in case of fire.

  • It can be a headache for authorities to identify the bodies of deceased persons. article published from p22 in Servamus: September 2021 provides valuable information on how forensic science and databases can be used in the identification process.

  • With their keen sense of smell, biological body-fluid detection dogs play a vital role at rape and murder crime scenes. Our article published from p18 in Servamus: September 2021 explains their training, work and successes along with their human partners.

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Compiled by Annalise Kempen

Fire and water - two elements of nature that result in opposite reactions: when one stares at a firepit or a bonfire and listens to the sound of water such as a waterfall or waves breaking, it typically makes one calm and relaxed. Yet, these same two elements have caused the greatest kinds of destruction on our planet and are two elements that no motorist would ever want to encounter while driving.

Who could forget the situation a few years ago when Ford Kuga owners feared for their lives as some of these sport utility vehicles caught fire? It resulted in the manufacturer issuing a safety recall for the affected models to address an engine overheating condition that could cause a fire. In their January 2016 statement announcing the recall, Ford said that the engine overheating was caused by a lack of coolant circulation which can lead to a crack of the cylinder head, and therefore an oil leak. "When leaking oil reaches a hot engine surface, it can potentially catch fire," the statement read. The manufacturer further warned that when a Kuga owner (driver) notices an indication that the engine may be overheating or warning lights on the instrument cluster, they should pull over as soon as it is safe to do, switch off the engine and ensure that all occupants are safely out of the vehicle. The vehicle manufacturer cautioned about opening the bonnet and recommended that the driver called the emergency services first and then roadside assistance (Ford, 2017). Unfortunately for Ford Kuga owners, and despite the recall, in January 2018, another Kuga caught fire, bringing back the nightmare for these vehicle owners (Wheels24, 2018).

According to the American Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), approximately one in eight fires in the USA is a highway vehicle fire and that approximately 171 500 such fires occurred annually between 2014 and 2016. These vehicle fires resulted in at least 345 fatalities and 1300 injuries each year (DriversEd.com). Even though the USA has a population of more than 330 million people, making these statistics a drop in the ocean, any incident that results in death and injury is a concern. Although there are no accurate statistics available for these types of incidents in South Africa - our country's high rate of violent protests, increases all drivers' chances of being caught in such a life-threatening situation. Along with what happened to some Kuga vehicle owners, it is important to be prepared when such an eventuality occurs.

Flames are not the only danger
Although we all fear being caught in any fire and not being able to escape, there is another threat when it comes to vehicle fires. According to an article published by Arrive Alive (Nd(a)), the true danger lies in toxic fumes since vehicles have a lot of synthetic materials that can emit harmful and deadly gases when they burn. One of the main by-products of fires is carbon monoxide - a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, weakness, headache, an upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Sadly, if you inhale too much carbon monoxide, you can lose consciousness and it can be fatal (CDC, 2021).

Vehicle fires generate tremendous heat, with parts of the vehicle that can explode due to the heat and which will result in debris being shot out over great distances. Fires may also cause the airbags to deploy, while hazardous substances such as battery acid can cause injury even without it being ignited (Arrive Alive, Nd(a)).

Possible reason for vehicle fires
Without getting technical about the mechanics of a vehicle, there are different reasons why a vehicle can catch fire which include a road crash, mechanical failure, electrical malfunction, fluid leaks or a design problem (Serafini and Serafini, 2018) or when they are deliberately set alight such as during protest actions. Dale Lomas (2020), a journalist writing in a blog post for the National Motorists Association, informs us that more than half of vehicle fires are due to technical issues such as improper usage or the installation of additional equipment. And a vehicle's age is not a deciding factor - rather its condition and maintenance…

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[This is only an extract of an article published in Servamus: August 2021. The rest of the article notes more reasons for vehicle fires; provides tips on how to prevent a vehicle fire and what to do when a vehicle burns. We also provide valuable tips on what you have to do when your vehicle is submerged and tools that can help you to escape. If you want to find out how you can read the rest of this article, send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..]

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Servamus - September 2021

The relatives of a Pietermaritzburg couple, who were shot dead in their bakkie on Old Greytown Road in March 2021, were angry when a young, close relative discovered a video making rounds on social media platforms showing the grisly scene.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
These days the media is able to cover almost every aspect of the criminal justice system, from the bloody crime scene and the arrest of the perpetrator, to the trial and eventually the sentencing of the perpetrator.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Blood dripping from stairs like waterfalls and maimed bodies; decomposed bodies covered with maggots; small children crying out in pain after being raped by someone they trus-ted; and women with bruised faces and bodies who shamefully try to hide their pain and humiliation are just a few scenarios that police members come across when they are called to a crime scene.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
One of the most familiar cold cases, which still boggles South Africans’ minds after all these years, is the Gert van Rooyen and Joey Haarhoff case, when at least six young girls mysteriously disappeared in the late 1980s.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2021

Act 7 of 2021 supra appears in English and Afrikaans in Government Gazette No 44650 dated 1 June 2021. It amends the Correctional Services Act 111 of 1998.
This Act 2 of 2020 is discussed comprehensively in Ask Pollex in Servamus: October 2020.
Read More - S v Josephs 2021(1) SACR 450 (WCC)
Relevant legislation Section 302 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (“the CPA”) provides as follows:
Read More - S v Tiry and Eight Others 2021(1) SACR 349 (SCA)
Factual background The principal complainants in this matter are Sasol and Engen who are producers of petroleum products.

Letters - September 2021

When police members turn 60, they are legally obliged to go on pension. Yet, that does not mean that they are "old".
Pollex noticed the following two letters in the regional newspaper Tyger Burger, dated 2 June 2021, which circulates in the Northern Suburbs in the Cape Peninsula.
September Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.