‘Come and get me’ – Dembovsky dares Sanral (Video)

Justice Project South Africa national chairperson's Howard Dembovsky speaks to The Citizen in Woodmead. 16 January 2014. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

In 2008, Howard Dembovsky was unlawfully arrested for reckless and negligent driving when trying to avoid being crumpled by an 18-wheeler truck.

It was the day the Gauteng traffic police decided to take on bikers, he says.

“The choice was to slam on breaks and be driven into by a vehicle behind me, get flattened by the truck or take evasive action – which I did. I went onto the shoulder lane.

“When I was arrested I burst out laughing and said: ‘You have got to be joking’.”

As one of eight people arrested on that day, Dembovsky, now an activist against e-tolling, was taken with the others and locked in a police courtyard with no roof, water or food for almost a day.

While his attorney had arranged for bail, Dembovsky would not leave.

In solidarity, he would wait until the seven others were released too.

After five court appearances the charges were withdrawn against all the detainees because of lack of evidence.

The sense of violation lead the former Zimbabwean policeman to form Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) that year – an organisation which stands up for those involved in similar traffic altercations.

“I am not a big fan of abuse,” he says with a solid look about him.

“I am an ex-policeman who was trained to be a person of integrity. So when people start engaging in activities that are not above board, it makes me very angry.”

Growing up in the neighbouring country, Dembovsky was taught from a young age not to be “scared of bullies”.

“I have always stuck up for myself and for others.

“I attended Alan Wilson High School of which the motto is: ‘we are men of men’. So it’s quite apt.”


As chairperson of JPSA, currently in the firm fight against e-tolling, Dembovsky describes himself as being “a cocky bugger”.

He did not attend university, despite being accepted to study medicine.

“Blood and guts, are not my thing”, he says.

That’s when he made the choice to join the police force: “I served in the Zimbabwe Republic Police.”

He moved to South Africa in 1987, feeling disillusioned with law enforcement and policing under the apartheid regime.

“If I had wanted to remain a policeman, I would have joined the SA Police when I came here. However, I didn’t, because they were a bunch of thugs.”

Dembovsky joined the struggle with his mother who at the time was an anti-apartheid activist.

“I earned the name at John Vors-ter Square as k***** boetie, because I fought with these okes to get people released.”

Speaking on how he juggles the organisation and his personal life, Dembovsky reveals he has two sons, and is divorced.

“So it’s me and my five dogs and two cats. You asked how I juggle? Well, clearly I wasn’t very good at juggling.”

Dembovsky says he “put his foot down” when the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) “threatened the public with criminal records” if they did not pay their e-toll bills.

“I said: ‘You know what? I will be your test case for e-tolls.’

“Prosecute me; let’s see who wins this. I actually said to Sanral: ‘If I win, you are going to stop e-tolling, if you win I am going to get a set of orange overalls’.”

Dembovsky says 98 out of a hundred emails he receives is about e-tolls: “People are panicking.”

He vows to help each and every concerned citizen with e-toll related issues and take on Sanral for its “discrepancies”.

Dembovsky is up to date on various traffic laws and legislation, which he says he absorbs like a sponge. “If they want to play this man they have to realise that I am squeaky clean and I do my homework. So let’s go for it.”

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