Introduction of eRegistered Mail may be a good thing – for some

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa has noted the launch of the new “eRegistered mail” service on offer by the South African Post Office and cautiously welcomes this technological advancement, more especially insofar as it applies to the prescripts AARTO Act which definitively require service by registered mail.

Whilst our stance may come as a huge surprise to some, we are of the view that this service will greatly benefit those individuals and organisations who wish to and have repeatedly tried to comply with the provisions of the AARTO Act. In particular, businesses of all sizes will finally be able to exercise their option to nominate the driver within the prescribed 32 days from service of an AARTO infringement notice.

There is also a huge advantage to motorists who, instead of repeatedly being caught “speeding” on a particular road where speed limits have often been arbitrarily reduced without any notice would receive notification within a significantly shorter period – instead of building up scores of speeding fines before becoming aware that they were even transgressing.

eRegistered mail may therefore be of benefit to both, law enforcement agencies and some errant motorists, fleet operators, etc. who have access to the internet and email and choose to opt-in on this service. It will not however replace “normal” registered mail for those who don’t.

Since the inception of the AARTO Act in the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, issuing authorities have used a service from the SAPO called “secure mail” to post infringement notices to alleged infringers. This service is not registered mail as is prescribed by the AARTO Act and does not operate in the same manner as regular registered mail, or the new eRegistered mail service.

In March 2016, JPSA lodged a notice of motion in the Pretoria High Court to address the unlawful service of AARTO infringement notices, courtesy letters and enforcement orders. We have now received notices of intention to oppose our application from five of the seven respondents in that matter and look forward to hearing the creative explanations they wish to fabricate to justify their unlawful behaviour.

The introduction of eRegistered mail in no way alters the fact that the requirements for service by registered mail contained in the AARTO Act have been violated by all concerned.

It is also interesting to note that the national rollout of the AARTO Act, which has endured multiple and repeated “false starts” over the nearly eight years it has been in operation in Johannesburg and Tshwane and was promised to be rolled out nationally “from 1 April 2016”; has still not happened.

In her budget speech before Parliament on 10 May 2016, the Minister of Transport appealed to the Portfolio Committee to expedite the processing of AARTO Amendment Bill, 2015 before Parliament.

It is not clear to us what makes the promulgation of the AARTO Amendment Bill, 2015 essential to the national rollout of AARTO while the current version of the Act is regarded to be good enough to impose on motorists who transgress in the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane.

This is more especially so in light of the launch of the eRegistered mail service by the SAPO since no amendments to the AARTO Act are required in order for the issuing authorities and the RTIA to make use of this service and it is therefore our view that the Department of Transport and its RTIA are merely seeking to further delay the national rollout for reasons best known to them and by using unjustifiable excuses to further delay, amongst other things, the implementation of the points-demerit system.

The national rollout of the AARTO Act would remove the current confusion and arguably, unconstitutional dual sets of procedures, requirements and consequences that exist with the simultaneous existence of the AARTO Act in just two jurisdictions, while the draconian, yet somewhat vague provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act apply everywhere else insofar as the Criminal Procedure Act applies to road traffic infringements.

The consideration of “increasing the revenue of the issuing authorities and the Agency due to the provision of electronic methods of service” should not be a consideration since traffic law enforcement should be about effectively tackling the lawlessness and associated, unacceptably high level of injuries and deaths which exists on South Africa’s roads.

Unfortunately, it is apparent that neither, the Department of Transport and its Agency, the RTIA, nor traffic law enforcement agencies have as yet realised this and so, continue to attempt to find ways to maximise their profits, instead of putting the lives of South Africans first. This is a crying shame, to say the least.

Easter road death ‘decline’ no cause for celebration - JPSA

JOHANNESBURG – While it is encouraging to note that this year’s Easter road death toll is down on 2015, it is important to note the Minister of Transport’s opening statements made with respect to the somewhat unique situation that prevailed this year.

The fact that last week only comprised of three days with Human Rights Day falling on the 21st and Good Friday falling on the 25th of this month, coupled with the school holidays coinciding with these public holidays would naturally mean that traffic concentrations would have been significantly lower than they would ordinarily be over an Easter long-weekend.

In addition, the fact that this Easter fell before the month-end on which many people receive their salaries would have also have had an influence.

Without detracting from the efforts made by dedicated law enforcement officials who were out in force over the Easter period, we remind the public that the Human Rights Day long-weekend saw terrible carnage on our roads.

A seeming 46% reduction in road fatalities from 286 last year to 156 this Easter is no cause for celebration and it is most certainly no reason for motorists to let their guard down. Defensive driving is key to assuring one’s own and family’s safety on our roads.

JPSA also acknowledges the efforts of the RTMC’s anti-corruption unit in arresting two corrupt traffic officers over the Easter weekend. Eradicating corruption in both, law enforcement and vehicle and driver testing stations must be regarded as a priority since without a concerted effort in tackling corruption – every other road safety strategy will achieve very little.

The arrest of 913 motorists for driving under the influence of alcohol and 502 for excessive speeding is cause for concern, particularly in light of the fact that convictions for DUI offences are and remain extremely low. It is simply astounding that these people seem to have little or no regard for their own self-preservation, let alone the lives and wellbeing of other road users. The sooner that our authorities and government laboratories get their acts together and start convicting those charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (or drugs), the sooner a message will be sent that it is not alright to drive drunk.

The notion of denying persons charged with these crimes bail is simply outrageous and is going to open up the floodgates for civil damages claims when people are acquitted or charges are withdrawn. JPSA encourages the Minister to drop the ridiculous notion of imposing punishment on persons charged with crimes ahead of their conviction and implores her to pay attention to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa she has sworn to uphold.

Criminal behaviour by JMPD officer cannot go unpunished

JOHANNESBURG – The latest video depicting JMPD officers abusing a motorist to go viral acutely demonstrates the urgent need for proper training and discipline which exists in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department.


Quite aside from the assault which took place on video, several other unlawful actions are apparent in this video.

Firstly, a number plate is vaguely visible on the rear of the bakkie (pick-up), thus meaning that the motorist failed to display one of the two number plates a vehicle other than a motorcycle or trailer is required to display.

This is defined as an infringement in terms of charge code 1210 in Schedule 3 of the AARTO Regulations and prescribes a fine of R500 (R250 if paid within 32 days) to be issued on an infringement notice. The arrest of the motorist and impound of such a vehicle is strictly unlawful in these circumstances.

The charge code 1211 “Failed to affix both number plates of a vehicle thereto” which the metro policeman can be heard mentioning, albeit being terribly badly worded in Schedule 3 means “failed to display any number plates” on a vehicle requiring two number plates and is defined as an offence for which one can be arrested and brought before a court to stand trial for that criminal offence.

Secondly, there was absolutely no need for the aggressive metro policeman to make a U turn and drive the motorist’s vehicle in the wrong direction down the wrong side of the road, additionally dropping the clutch and causing the vehicle’s tyres to spin on the roadway.

While spinning the wheels of a vehicle is an infringement for the owner of a vehicle to commit and carries with it a R1,000 fine, it must be remembered that the metro policeman was not the owner of the vehicle and had an additional duty of care not to cause or expose the vehicle to risk of loss or damage.

The combination of his actions constitutes assault, reckless driving and malicious damage to property, all of which are criminal offences. He has also opened himself and the JMPD up to a civil claim for unlawful or false arrest, depending on what happened after the video ended and whether the motorist was actually taken to a police station and charged.

The RTMC has announced that from 1 April 2016, all traffic officers will have to undergo three years’ training. Metro policemen and women have to undergo a further six months’ training in order to be appointed as metro policemen and women.

Whilst it is curious to note that “old school” traffic officers only underwent three months’ training prior to the establishment of metro police entities, it is quite clear that many of the thugs in uniform who operate on our roads; purporting to be law enforcement officers are in desperate need of proper retraining in order to understand where their powers begin and end, not to mention understanding the provisions of traffic law.

Behaviour such as has been demonstrated in this video cannot go unpunished and it is our sincere hope that the motorist concerned will lay formal criminal charges against the metro policeman concerned and that the JMPD will take the appropriate corrective action on a disciplinary level.

This said, it is rare for the JMPD to do anything in the absence of a formal complaint from the motorist concerned and its management and spokespersons are all too often extremely quick to jump to the defence of the indefensible actions of abusive so-called “officers” who see fit to act as thugs and drag all of their colleagues into the stereotypical views that the public holds that all metro police are little more than criminals in uniform.

UPDATE:

It has been reported that shortly after the video went viral, Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar of the JMPD contacted Ms Carmen Bell and promised that the matter will be investigated. JPSA is pleased that the JMPD has apparently been proactive in this matter and will monitor the situation.