Linking e-tolls to licence discs

Since the Deputy President’s announcement on Tuesday 20 May 2015 wherein it was stated that e-tolls would be linked to licence disc renewals, Justice Project South Africa has received numerous queries with respect to whether this concept would be "legal".

As things stand right now, this provision, along with all of the other changes announced around e-tolls yesterday will have to be reduced to writing in the form draft regulations amendments and such draft published for public comment. Interested parties will then have 30 days from the time of publication of that government gazette to make written representations to the Department of Transport.

Only when that process has completed and the Minister of Transport has applied her mind to all of the submissions received, may she publish amended regulations and proclaim a commencement date therefor.

JPSA is of the opinion that withholding the issue of licence discs, whilst sounding easy enough, may not pass constitutional muster since, amongst other things, it would be tantamount forcing a person who has in fact paid licence fees to renew their licence but to whom a licence disc has been refused to contravene the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2000 by not displaying a current licence as prescribed.

Even if this proposed amendment were to pass constitutional muster, there is no guarantee whatsoever that holding motorists to ransom by withholding a licence disc would have the desired effect of forcing people to pay their outstanding e-toll bills.

In fact, quite the opposite is true and the possibility of a whole new industry of mass false licence disc production could become a very real possibility. Displaying a counterfeit licence disc is a serious criminal offence for which a person would be charged criminally and such counterfeit discs can be detected by the equipment contained in the now infamous “e-toll roadblocks” SANRAL vans and trucks.

Not displaying a current licence disc is however, under the AARTO Act, a minor infringement which results in a R250 fine (discounted by 50% if paid within 32 days). The consequence of not paying such a fine could, after the prescribed period and processes have ensued, lead to an enforcement order being issued, thereby blocking licensing transactions on eNaTIS against the person whose licence disc has already been refused.

In other words, that person would then not only have unpaid e-tolls and no licence disc, but would also have one or more unpaid traffic fines which can currently proceed no further than an enforcement order and would therefore constitute no real further consequence.

If this provision does go through and people dig their heels in, it may be found by the Gauteng Provincial Government and all licensing authorities in Gauteng that the tactic of withholding licence discs will have a profound negative impact on their own licensing income revenues.

With Gauteng’s vehicle population being the greatest in South Africa (38.87% of the country’s total vehicle population of 11,493,608 as at 31 March 2015) the licensing fees generated in Gauteng are far from chump-change and if people stop paying them, this will represent a significant revenue drain for the province and for the Department of Transport.

It is indeed a pity that government has insisted on persisting with trying to make what has already demonstrated itself to be a failed and unworkable system, which is additionally enormously unpopular and entirely inappropriate for South Africa work.

JMPD cancels all unlawful "02-4024" AARTO fines

Justice Project South Africa is delighted to note and announce that the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) has finally taken the responsible decision and action to programmatically cancel all of the unpaid illegal AARTO infringement notices it issued in violation of the prescripts of Section 30(1) of the AARTO Act. Section 30(1) of the AARTO Act prescribes that “Any document required to be served on an infringer in terms of this Act, must be served on the infringer personally or sent by registered mail to his or her last known address”.

It was on this basis that JPSA lodged a complaint with the Public Protector in June 2011, which resulted in the JMPD being found to have engaged in maladministration in her report entitled “A Matter of Interpretation” in December 2014, the remedial action recommended was for the JMPD to print an “apology” in Johannesburg Newspapers and this was done in March 2015.

At around the same time, the JMPD stated in a media conference that members of the public who had received such unlawful fines would have to “apply to have them cancelled”. JPSA immediately wrote to both, the JMPD and RTIA pointing out the massive administrative burden this so-called “solution” would place on the public, the RTIA and the JMPD. We also pointed out the fact that the JMPD was continuing to collect revenues on illegally issued infringement notices.

This, coupled with the Public Protector’s report, has apparently had the desired effect, however we wish to point out that the JMPD has gone further than merely complying with the remedial action stipulated by the Public Protector.

In addition, the JMPD has also cancelled all AARTO infringement notices it issued which were not entered into the National Contraventions Register as is prescribed by the AARTO Act. This affects all AARTO infringement notices starting with the prefix 02-4024 it issued since 1 April 2009 but does not affect lawful AARTO infringement notices which were issued in compliance with the Act, through the National Contraventions Register which runs on the eNaTIS registry, nor does it affect “no admission of guilt” criminal offences.

Motorists who make use of the website will notice that all infringement notices starting with the prefix 02-4024 displayed on that website now show the status “Case is already Finalised”, which means that motorists will no longer be required to submit AARTO 08 representations for each and every one of them, including but not limited to the infringement notices sent by ordinary mail. Motorists will also no longer be intimidated over these unlawful fines in roadblocks established by the JMPD.

JPSA wishes to commend the JMPD for finally coming clean, complying with the law and doing the right thing in this matter. We also wish to commend them for going further than merely complying with the report of the Public Protector.

The last time anything like this happened was in 2009 when the JMPD programmatically cancelled all of the illegal fines it issued under the Criminal Procedure Act from 1 November 2008 to 11 February 2009 when it should have been issuing them in terms of the AARTO Act. The significant difference between then and now was that in 2009, it undertook to refund motorists who had paid unlawfully issued fines, but this time around is claiming that “a motorist who has paid fine has admitted guilt and therefore is not entitled to a refund”.

JPSA disagrees with this assertion, given the fact that the JMPD is notorious for setting up roadblocks where Metro Police officers intimidate people into paying fines under threat of arrest and/or detention, even though the AARTO Act does not cater for Warrants of Arrest for infringement notices. We hold that coercion does not constitute “admission of guilt”.

Only when traffic law enforcement in South Africa is practiced in an ethical and corruption-free manner which complies fully with the law, will people begin to respect and comply with the law. While traffic authorities continue to believe that they may blatantly violate the law and use traffic fines to drive outrageous monetary “budgets” for the local, provincial and national authorities they fall under, the outrageously high levels of road carnage which plays itself out on a daily basis in South Africa will continue.

JPSA will continue to be at the forefront of driving the much-needed changes in traffic law enforcement which focus on restoring law and order and saving lives on our roads, as opposed to revenue generation as is currently the case and will not hesitate to bring other traffic authorities to book if and when they deviate from the law.

Proposal on driver retesting is nonsensical

Justice Project South Africa is horrified to learn that it is being reported that “government is in talks to soon introduce a system where metro police officers can randomly stop motorists and retest their driving”. 

Whomever came up with this nonsensical notion should be fired immediately, before they get the opportunity to further facilitate corruption. Firstly, very few traffic officers, let alone metro police men or women are qualified driving licence examiners and secondly, randomised retesting is not the solution to the widespread systemic corruption in the issuing of driving licenses. 

South Africa has known about the widespread systemic corruption in the issuing of driving licenses since it was revealed that more than 50% of the driving licenses issued between 1998 and 2002 were “defective” when it was announced by the Special Investigative Unit, yet absolutely nothing proactive has been done to tackle this known problem. 

Contrary to the claim made by RTMC’s CEO Advocate Makhosini Msibi, the National Road Traffic Act does not empower any traffic officer to retest any person at random at the roadside, especially if they are not a qualified driving licence examiner. 

The most obvious solution to the problem of so-called “defective” driving licenses is to require mandatory re-testing of drivers on renewal of their driving licenses every 5 years, but in order for this to be feasible, corruption must be eradicated. 

Should the Department of Transport and their State Owned Corporations decide to proceed with this ridiculous, corruption-enabling idea, JPSA will not hesitate to stand in its way and do everything possible to prevent this illegal practice from proceeding.