How are they getting fixed?

The lights go out. You log a call. They get fixed. The next day they’re out again. What is going on behind the scenes that this keeps happening? When you report a fault, does it disappear into the ether or is there a humanoid somewhere in a call center somewhere processing your complaint. We went behind the scenes, inside the process, to check it out. We even went out with orange uniformed technicians to fix some lights.

The journey from logging a call to fixing the lights

The JRA wants you to log faults on its fancy, award winning Find and Fix app. We decided to test the system to see if it works. Does it really take 24 hours to turn around a complaint?

The life cycle of a complaint

These are the people responsible for fixing your traffic lights and for keeping them switched on. They hear you and feel your frustration – they’re also hugely passionate and committed to their jobs.

  • Darryl Thomas

    Head of Department Mobility and Freight (He’s the guy who is ultimately responsible for traffic lights in Joburg)

    I don’t have any problems with the city being angry with me. This is all our passion. We know it’s never going to be 100% correct and all it is is just another challenge. Whether I was working in finance or here you get those challenges in the public sector and it’s a challenge that I’m experienced in and my team is experienced in so we’re always up to it. I am the guy that the buck stops with but I’ve got the confidence that our team is pretty well equipped, as good as anyone else in the country to deal with it. I always tell my guys that we’re all in a wonderful position because when we drive to work in the morning and we see a traffic signal out, we’re actuallyin a position where we can fix it. And when we drive to work the next day and the traffic is flowing freely and all those thousands of vehicles are not experiencing a delay, you personally have played a part in improving conditions. Not everyone can say that in their working environment. We have the opportunity to make a huge impact. When I drive in Cape Town and the signals aren’t working I think ‘What’s wrong with these guys. Get a life man’. It’s just human nature. Somebody has to be responsible for everything. If people want to vent their spleen about a traffic signal fault, we’re the guys that they’ve got to shout at.

  • Charles Mkhambi

    Traffic Light Technician

    I’m 62 now. I’ve been doing this job for 38 years. In the olden days everything was mechanical. Now things are changing and it’s more electronics than mechanical. When I started, the controller itself was very noisy. But now it’s quiet. I miss the old ones because you can actually see where the fault is. The difficult jobs is if there is something wrong with the cables. Then we have to go pole to pole to try and establish where the problem is. We have to dig it out. That’s hard work. Normally it’s just resetting. When motorists see our vehicle parked next to the intersection, they know that something is going to be fixed. They appreciate. But you know mos, people are not the same. Sometimes people can react differently. My kids think what I do is cool and they are very proud of it. My wife always when she travels around, she checks the robots and always reports to me where they are out. My children do the same on the way to school. They phone me if it’s not right.

  • Esther Schmidt

    Ops manager for traffic engineering (she plans the roads and traffic lights in the city – decides where they go and how long the cycles are)

    I studied as a civil engineer. I work for the private sector for a very long time as a consultant and the main reason I joined the JRA was that you can make these differences. You want to go back in the evening and say look what I’ve done. Although I might not have built a huge bridge today, I might have put up a stop sign or solved a safety problem at a school or possibly have made somebody’s house that was damaged the week before, safer. There’s no gender stereotyping issue. I’ve never experienced any form of it being a difficult industry – all you do is carry more boots and shoes in your car than the rest of the men. But maybe more Lego should be introduced to girls to play with.

  • Khabo Dlamini

    Assistant manager of Traffic Signals maintenance (She gets the complaint at the depot and then assigns it to a technician).

    By trade I am an electrical artisan. Have you ever had this feeling when you see something that you’ve done come to life? It’s one of those. Like, ‘Yay! I’m responsible for that’. One of those feelings. The sense of accomplishment afterwards. I’m responsible for someone getting home safely. I did that. When people are angry, I understand customer service. I do understand the frustrations because I’m also driving. But we ask people to be patient with us. They need to understand that not every intersection has a system to let us know that it’s not working. If they let us know in advance then it will be easier for us to help them. If you let me know, then I can assist you.

  • Cheslyn Miles

    Supervisor – he runs the center that handles the complaints and interacts with the public.

    I’ve always been in the business of customer service. I feel I can contribute to the customers. I have a wife and three kids. My wife loves it. She’s very supportive. There are times when I get calls from counselors during weekends and I make sure that I help them. It gives me pleasure to do that. I usually don’t have stress but I deal with it by talking about it, going into the room and talking to myself you know: ‘This is how you’re going to handle it, this is what you’re going to do’. I usually watch Bad Boys 2, you know the part where Martin Lawrence says Woosa. I do a Woosa. It calms me down.

  • Khayalethu Nombula


    This is public property. It is for everyone. If someone tampers with it, you are tampering with someone else’s life. I have to get angry. This is my property. This is our property. It’s ours. I will be upset if I see that someone has cut it down or ripped it out.