Admitting that e-tolling “was a mistake” is a good start – JPSA

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa is delighted to note that Gauteng Premier, David Makhura has reportedly finally admitted that e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project “was a mistake” in his State of the Province address on Monday 20 February 2017 and congratulates him for doing so.

Certainly, finally coming to admit one’s mistakes represents a superbly good start to finding a way to put right that mistake and one can only hope that the Premier’s colleagues who are higher up the food chain, as well as the arrogant individuals at SANRAL will also come to realise this instead of continuing to seek to wage war with motorists who drive on these freeways.

It is sad to note that the new CEO of SANRAL, Skhumbuzo Macozoma has apparently adopted a similar approach to that of his predecessor in again threatening some people with criminal prosecution for the non-payment of e-tolls when the Department of Transport has acknowledged that this is not possible in the jurisdictions of the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, when it released proposed amendments to the AARTO Regulations on 7 December 2015 in order to better suit SANRAL’s bizarre and ill-founded desire to include up to 100 infringements on a single AARTO 03 infringement notice.

JPSA has asserted from the outset that the Criminal Procedure Act cannot be used to prosecute non-payment of e-tolls in the jurisdictions of the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, which cover the vast majority of the freeways which make up the GFIP and was proven right when these proposed amendments were published for public comment. Since then, the Minister of Transport has not proclaimed any amendments to the AARTO Regulations, apart from an amendment to Schedule 4 which lists the issuing authorities in terms of the AARTO Act.

Just when it will be that National Government, the Minister and Department of Transport and SANRAL come to the realisation that e-tolling was, as the Premier puts it, “a mistake”, scraps it and moves on is anyone’s guess but the fact still remains that the enormously unpopular scheme has failed in a spectacular fashion and there exists less than zero chance that citizens will suddenly capitulate and buy into it.

Announcements/reports on new traffic regulations are misleading - JPSA

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has noted various reports which have apparently arisen out of statements made by representatives and the spokesperson for the Department of Transport regarding numerous amendments and/or insertions in the National Road Traffic Regulations, only two of which have been promulgated.

For some reason which is not immediately apparent to us, the Department of Transport appears to have chosen to irresponsibly conflate actual promulgated amendments with draft amendments and this merely has the effect of spreading misinformation and confusing the public.

On 11 November 2016, the Minister of Transport promulgated amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations in Government Gazette 40420 wherein Regulations 250 and 293 were amended. Since then, no other amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations have been promulgated.

The amendment of Regulation 250 of the National Road Traffic Regulations, instead of enhancing road safety, has relaxed the previous total prohibition which prescribed that “no person shall on a public road carry any person for reward in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle” by amending it to “no person shall on a public road convey school children in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward.

Subregulation (2) now reads as follows:

“No person shall convey any other person in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward: Provided that the provisions of this subregulation shall not apply in respect of a vehicle which complies with the provisions of the NLTA”.

Instead of bolstering the prohibition of persons on the back of bakkies and other goods vehicles for reward, this insertion has actually “legalised” the transportation of any and all other persons in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward, provided that the transport operator applies to and pays the Department of Transport for a permit to do so.

The amendments to Regulation 250 come into effect on 11 May 2017, NOT “1 May 2017” as has been widely reported.

The amendment of Regulation 250 imposes no prohibition whatsoever on the conveyance of any person (school children not excluded) in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle where no fee is charged therefor. Furthermore there is no prescript regarding the maximum number of persons who may be conveyed in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle contained in this amendment.

Even if there were, the question must arise as to just how effective limiting the number of persons conveyed in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle to 5 would be in preventing such persons from becoming human missiles and/or mitigate the possibility of their serious injury or death if/when a bakkie or other goods vehicle crashes.

Insofar as the vehicle class speed limit of 100km/h for goods vehicles with a GVM/GCM of more than 3,500kg but less than 9,000kg goes, the insertion of subparagraphs (aa) and (bb) into Regulation 293(iv) which gave effect to this specific vehicle class speed limit came into immediate effect on 11 November 2016.

According to a BusinessTech report, Transport spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi made further claims that the following additional amendments are on the cards for later this year, however he apparently added that these draft amendments will again be published for public comment before they are:

·         Drivers will have to undergo a practical re-evaluation when renewing a licence;

·         A complete review and revamp of the current K53 test;

·         Speed limits to be reduced from 60km/h to 40km/h in urban areas, from 100 to 80km/h in rural areas and from 120 to 100km/h on freeways running through a residential area;

·         Goods vehicles above 9,000kg GVM to be banned from public roads during peak travelling times.

If/when these and/or any other draft amendments are published for comment, JPSA will be sure to make the appropriate submissions.

JPSA is in full agreement with the Automobile Association of South Africa regarding its assertions that “the inefficiency of law enforcement agencies to enforce effectively the existing laws relating to speed limits” is at the heart of speeding offences, but we must add that the improper enforcement of speed limits is far from the only problem we face on our roads.

Traffic law enforcement in South Africa is not practiced consistently, ethically and in the interests of road safety. Instead there is more than ample evidence that it focusses primarily on revenue generation. Until this changes, no amount of new laws, misinformation on what laws do actually exist and threats of extended incarceration without bail are going to have any effect on the situation. 

JPSA welcomes news of further corruption busts and investigations

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa is delighted to note that some action is finally being taken to tackle the rampant corruption in driving and vehicle licensing centres within the City of Johannesburg and now, Gauteng in general.

Today it was announced that a further 7 licensing officials were arrested by the Hawks, resulting from the investigation the City of Johannesburg commissioned in the latter part of 2016.

Following this announcement, the MEC for Roads and Transport for Gauteng, Ismail Vadi put out a media release announcing that an investigation launched by his department in 2013 has revealed that a possible 394 officials employed in motor vehicle registering authorities in Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Sedibeng and the West Rand, and involving some R42 million in what appears to be vehicle licensing fraud are also on the radar, 19 of whom it appears are to be suspended and prosecuted shortly.

What is notable about the MEC’s announcement is the fact that his department’s investigation appears to be focussed primarily on vehicle licensing, as opposed to the “irregular” issue of driving licences by corrupt officials. Whilst there is no denying that fraud and corruption in vehicle licensing robs government of revenues, the “irregular” issue of driving licences by corrupt officials arguably puts unqualified drivers on the road, thereby causing severe repercussions which affect the daily lives of ordinary road users, as well as adversely affecting the economy and draining State resources.

The recent instruction by the Minister of Transport for the Road Traffic Management Corporation to “undertake an audit of how driving licences as well as roadworthy certificates are processed and issued in our testing stations, so that we can have an appreciation of how it is possible that so many incompetent drivers and un-roadworthy vehicles could be on our roads” is laudable, albeit long overdue and somewhat trailing the pack.

JPSA hopes that the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport and all other authorities acknowledge the clear dangers of “irregular” driving licenses and have similarly been investigating, and will take action on the rampant fraudulent issuing of driving licenses which is prevalent in driving licence testing centres. If a mere 10% of those driving licenses have been “bought”, this means that more than 50,000 potentially incompetent drivers have been put on our roads in 2016 alone.

JPSA also hopes that those who are suspended will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and that the courts will take very seriously, the adverse impact of corruption on society when sentencing persons convicted of corruption.