FOR many the mere sight of a traffic officer stirs a wicked desire to turf the remnants of a supersized takeaway in their direction. Years of traffic fines and roadblocks tend to have that effect.
Yet one Knysna traffic official is breaking the "big brother" stereotype by smiling his way into the hearts of those he serves. His benevolent manner has even earned him national recognition on TV.
Knysna resident Ellen Cane recently nominated Knysna traffic officer Ernest "Nonki" Nqoko as a dagbreker in the Afrikaans network TV station KykNet's breakfast show, Dagbreek (Day Break), which was screened on March 6. The TV insert acknowledges individuals who make other people's days in some way.
In her nomination Cane wrote that Nqoko, affectionately known as "Smiley" or "Papi", deserved the title because he put a smile on everybody's face.
"Every person who drives past him just wants to greet him and have a bit of his smile. This is difficult because he can't return the greetings as his hand signals may then give the wrong traffic instruction... and that's why he just keeps on smiling." Nqoko is especially popular with children. They looked out for him every day and were disappointed when he was not on duty, Cane said.
"Children [hopefully with seatbelts on] literally hang out of the windows of their parents' vehicles to greet him. He is very friendly with a genuine ear-to-ear smile. Everybody in Knysna knows him."
Nqoko said yesterday he was "so happy" he had been nominated.
"When I heard about the TV insert, I could have jumped over a mountain. I am so excited about this," he said.
The officer, who has been with the Knysna traffic department for the past six years, was not able to catch the insert when it aired earlier this month.
"Hopefully I can see it some time. I am in contact with the TV people, and they are letting me know about everything."
Knysna municipal manager Lauren Waring said the municipality was proud of Nqoko.
"Pointsmen in particular perform a very dangerous yet essential service to the community, and I thank local resident Ellen Cane for acknowledging our Smiley in this way. Well done, Nonki, we are very proud of you," Waring said.