Minister of Transport regurgitating old threats

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa has noted that the Minister of Transport, Ms Dipuo Elizabeth Peters is once again giving motorists an “early Christmas present” by regurgitating threats she levelled at them around this time last year, as well as making additional ones in Parliament.

Last year, the Minister and the CEO of the RTMC threatened delinquent drivers, in particular those who drive at speeds above the speed limit and those who are under the influence of alcohol with extended periods of incarceration prior to being released on bail to be tried in a criminal court and this year the Minister appears to be doing exactly the same thing. This comes in spite of her assertions last year to the effect that the Department of Transport was working closely with the Department of Justice to urgently have these crimes rescheduled to Schedule 5 offences under the Criminal Procedure Act. This year she is levelling the same threats and making the same assertions – thereby indicating that no progress has been made in that regard, probably because of the pure absurdity of it all.

In addition, it would appear that some “road safety commentators” are blaming the Department of Justice for the incredibly low conviction rate of those charged with driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect by saying that “the department of justice did not take the prosecution of road offenders seriously”.

This is a very dangerous and somewhat foolish assertion to be making, given the fact that there is a lot more to convicting a person who is alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol than simply arresting them and it would appear that both, the Minister and these “road safety commentators” are unaware of this fact.

Whilst JPSA has an inherent and vehement dislike for those who do drive whilst they are intoxicated, it is also acutely aware of the fact that proper evidence is a fundamental requirement in criminal trials and it is and remains unhelpful that blood test results from the State run laboratories typically take ages to come back, if indeed they ever do come back.

Simultaneously, JPSA is a big fan of a piece of legislation called “the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa” which is supposed to be the supreme law of the land and holds that “every accused person has the right to be presumed innocent [until proven guilty]”. The South African Police Service (SAPS) standard operational procedures (SOPs) already dictate that a person who is arrested for an offence involving alcohol must be detained for a minimum of four hours before being released on bail and in reality, such detention periods easily exceed three times that. The release on bail is not to be viewed as a fine or as constituting the excusing of such an accuse person from the crime they stand accused of, but to be exactly what it is – a warning to appear in court to be tried for that crime.

What is vitally important is that, particularly with DUI offences and in order for people to take the prosecution therefor seriously, the matter must be dealt with swiftly and those who are convicted must “feel the pinch”. To suggest, as the Minister does, that accused persons should be punished prior to even seeing the inside of a court is quite simply absurd and is tantamount to adopting principles which have no regard for due process, the criminal justice system and/or the Constitution.

The second threat arising from the Minister of Transport comes in the form of prosecution for “civil disobedience” towards e-tolls, as was levelled in her reply to a question in Parliament. Again, it is noted that the Minister chooses to engage in threats against the citizens of this country instead of seeking proper resolution to the problem.

The State is fully entitled to prosecute so-called “e-tolls offenders” but must remain mindful of Section 9(1) of the Bill of Rights under the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 which holds that “Everyone is equal before the law…”. If it is the Minister’s and SANRAL’s intention to prosecute so-called “e-tolls offenders” for “civil disobedience”, then they must prosecute all, over 2 million “offenders” and not simply “cherry pick” a few select “offenders” like has been done with the “civil summonses” which have now suddenly gone quiet, or the single prosecution for licence plate fraud which took place under the Criminal Procedure Act.

We are sure that the South African Post Office will welcome the additional revenue which will arise out of the posting well in excess of 2 million AARTO infringement notices by “secure mail” daily and SANRAL need not worry about this expenditure being seen to be irregular by the Auditor General since the SAPO will surely bill them and in so doing, bail the SAPO out of the financial hole it is in. Therefore SANRAL need not worry too much about being chased out of Parliament by SCOPA for not coming prepared again.

The carnage on South Africa’s roads is a serious matter and should be tackled with all of the vigour and seriousness it deserves. However, taking short-cuts, ignoring the very real problems and engaging in threats is not the way to go about it. If and when the Department of Transport, the Minister and the traffic authorities alike wake up and begin to understand that professionalism and addressing the real underlying problems will go a long way to curing the ills which play themselves out on our roads daily, then and only then will changes in the behaviour of motorists (and other road users) start to come about. In the meantime however, people have become less and less sensitive to the repeated threats levelled by the Minister and others in her employ.

JPSA urges motorists to adopt a responsible approach and to avoid breaking the law. There is simply no excuse for drink/drug driving and in the process, putting everyone’s safety at risk.

Ban on conveying school children for reward in goods vehicles & new vehicle-specific speed limit

JOHANNESBURG – On Friday 11 November 2016, the Minister of Transport promulgated amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations which must be noted by motorists – in particular those who operate goods vehicles.

Firstly, Government Gazette 40420 of 11 November 2016 amended Regulation 250, which previously forbade the conveyance of persons for reward in the goods compartment of goods vehicles (bakkies) in its entirety to read as follows:

(1)       No person shall on a public road convey school children in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward. 

(2)       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. 

Simply put, these amendments mean that transport operators who successfully acquire a public transportation permit in terms of the National Land Transport Act, 2009 (Act 5 of 2009) may convey persons in the goods compartment of bakkies, etc. for reward but under no circumstances is the conveyance of school children in the goods compartment of bakkies, etc. for reward allowed. It is not clear how school children will be accommodated in rural areas with poor quality roads, which are inaccessible to buses, minibuses and the like.

The provisions of Regulation 250 above will come into effect from 11 May 2017.

The second Regulation which was inserted was subregulation (iv) of Regulation 293 which has, with immediate effect, imposed a vehicle class specific speed limit of 100km/h on goods vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) or gross combination mass (GCM) which is greater than 3,500kg but less than 9,000kg as follows:

(iv) (aa) a goods vehicle the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds 3 500 kilograms but does not exceed 9 000 kilograms; or

(bb) a combination of motor vehicles consisting of a goods vehicle, being the drawing vehicle, and one or two trailers of which the sum of the gross vehicle mass of the goods vehicle and of the trailer or trailers exceeds 3 500 kilograms but does not exceed 9 000 kilograms.

Simply put, this means that goods vehicles with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) or gross combination mass (GCM) which is greater than 3,500kg may not exceed 100km/h, regardless of whether the prescribed speed limit or general speed limit which may apply is greater than 100km/h – for example on a freeway. It does not mean that such vehicles may drive at up to 100km/h wherever they wish.

The vehicle class specific speed limits applicable to goods vehicles with a GVM or GCM of more than 9,000kg and a breakdown which is towing another vehicle of 80km/h remains in force. The vehicle class specific speed limit for a bus, a minibus or a midibus operating in terms of an operating licence, as well as a rapid transport bus and a rapid transport bus-train of 100km/h also remains in force.

Just how of if these speed limits will be enforced remains to be seen since most of the speed limit prosecution which takes place nationwide is done using speed cameras which have an upper limit set on them before they trigger, and thus tend to catch only those who exceed 130km/h where they are deployed on freeways.

Nonetheless, fleet owners who operate goods vehicles which fall under the criteria above are advised to inform their drivers that this amendment has taken place and that no “grace period” exists since these provisions became effective on 11 November 2016

 Government Gazette 40420 of 11 November 2016 is available here.

SANRAL and its lawyers must let everyone know where they really stand on e-tolls

JOHANNESBURG – Following the concerns raised by the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) this morning regarding the public spat between OUTA and SANRAL concerning civil legal action on unpaid e-tolls bills, Justice Project South Africa wishes support the AA’s calls and to add its concerns to the mix.

It is remarkable that despite having been specifically named by OUTA, Werksmans Attorneys have remained silent on this issue, even though this law firm is the only party which can settle this dispute between SANRAL and OUTA and in so doing, provide much-needed clarity to the motoring public.

If it is true that Werksmans Attorneys have reached an agreement with OUTA to “stay legal action against all current and future members of OUTA pending the outcome of a test case”, then the details of this agreement must officially and urgently be made public.

If SANRAL asserts, as it apparently does, that no such agreement is in place, then all it needs to do is have its legal representatives be a party to a joint media statement with SANRAL refuting OUTA’s claims and that will be the end of the story.

If however OUTA’s claims turn out to be true then SANRAL would need to explain why it is misleading the public and its legal representatives would need to explain why they are seemingly seeking to favour OUTA members in violation of Section 9(1) of the Bill of Rights under the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 which holds that “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law”.

Furthermore, if such an agreement is in place, then it stands to reason that no Court in South Africa would risk making a pre-emptive ruling whilst the outcome of a test case is pending and in so doing, violating the constitutional rights of those who are not members of OUTA. 

JPSA therefore calls upon SANRAL and Werksmans Attorneys urgently issue a joint statement providing definitive clarity on this matter.