The JMPD’s insatiable appetite for fine revenues

JOHANNESBURG – An article which appeared in the Star Newspaper on Monday 20 October 2014, again making claims that the JMPD is spending more on postages for AARTO infringement notices it issues than it collects again highlights the skewed thinking that the JMPD and the City of Johannesburg applies to traffic enforcement. 

The article quotes Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar as saying that: 

  • “The City of Johannesburg budgeted for R464.3m a year in income from fines in its 2014/15 budget, or about R38.7m a month”.
  • “Only 4 percent of fines were collected on Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) infringement notices issued by the JMPD”.
  • “This represents R5.2m collected [by the JMPD] in an average month”.
  • “The cost [to the JMPD] of posting infringements by registered mail amounts to about R9.5m a month” and the JMPD calls this “wasteful expenditure”.
  • “Approximately 400 000 infringements are produced each month [by the JMPD]”.
  • “The JMPD has been holding “smart” roadblocks and roadside checkpoints where copies of AARTO infringements are served personally on the infringer”. 

Notwithstanding that the claim that the JMPD issues approximately 400 000 infringement notices a month is down by 50 000 on the previously claimed figure, none of the other figures quoted make sense.  According to the annual reports of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), the vast majority of infringement notices issued by the JMPD (well over 90%) are speed camera infringement notices and the JMPD does little physical enforcement of other moving violations or ensuring that traffic flows as it should. They do however mount prolific roadblocks in order to collect what they see as due to them and have no hesitation in severely hampering traffic flow and acting unlawfully in the process. 

The penalties payable to issuing authorities under the AARTO Act ranges from R125 to R750 on each infringement notice. This excludes penalties payable at courts, should the nature of the offence be deemed by the Act to be a criminal offence. If indeed, 400 000 infringement notices are issued by it per month, the absolute minimum value of these fines would be R50 million a month, not R38.7 million a month as claimed. A R11.3 million (29%) discrepancy on its budget simply cannot be described as being chump change. 

Furthermore, the JMPD claims that it is collecting R5.2 million a month and this represents 4% of the penalties payable. If this is true, it means that the JMPD must be issuing R92 million worth of infringement notices a month or R1.1 billion a year. In return, the City of Johannesburg budgets nothing whatsoever for road safety initiatives, but instead chooses to treat traffic fines as a general tax to fund its annual budget. 

The JMPD claims that it sets up “smart roadblocks and roadside checks where copies of AARTO infringements are served personally on the infringer”. Whilst it is not in dispute that the JMPD sets up prolific roadblocks and roadside checks, it is in dispute that these are legal and what the purposes of these exercises are. It is also not a provision of the AARTO Act for personal service of AARTO 03 infringement notices to be served on the alleged infringer at the roadside. 

JPSA currently has several live complaints lodged with the JMPD with respect to roadblocks mounted by them and it has already been established that the JMPD acts unlawfully in terms of the requirements imposed on it by the South African Police Service Act. Under this Act, the JMPD is required to apply for and be granted permission to mount both roadblocks and roadside checks, regardless of what the purpose for these are. 

On Sunday 13 July 2014, the JMPD mounted simultaneous roadblocks on the N1 North and South at Malibongwe Drive and Beyers Naude Drive respectively where only the roadblock mounted on the N1 North was authorised in terms of Section 13(8) of the SAPS Act. These roadblocks lasted almost 7 hours and severely disrupted traffic, causing the people stuck in them to incur significant financial losses. 

On Friday 10 October 2014, a journalist from the SABC was stopped in roadblock mounted by the JMPD on the N1 South opposite Vlakfontein and called JPSA for advice as he was being threatened with arrest for outstanding AARTO infringement notices. When a JMPD officer spoke to Howard Dembovsky, the officer stated “we are working here not to remind people to pay their fines, but to make them pay their fines… If you say he cannot pay fines meet him at the Police Station then. You can leave where you are now and meet him at err… Diep… err… Orlando Police Station and you can help yourself with this.” 

This conversation was recorded and has been published to SoundCloud. It constitutes an attempt at extortion as well as a threat of unlawful arrest. The JMPD has repeatedly denied that their officers threaten people with arrest for outstanding AARTO infringement notices but clearly, their denials are, like most of what comes out of the JMPD, fabrications intended to make their officers out to be angels and make members of the public out to be liars. 

Although the AARTO Act does make provision for arrest and/or the issue of summonses for serious criminal offences under the National Road Traffic Act, it makes no provision for the issue of summonses and/or warrants of arrest for outstanding infringement notices as it utilises other, administrative mechanisms to deal with these matters.  When applied properly, the provisions of the AARTO Act work quite well, but obviously – constant and prolonged strikes by the South African Post Office, coupled with maladministration and deviation from the prescripts of the Act by issuing authorities and the RTIA do not help matters. 

JPSA is still awaiting the final report of the Public Protector with respect to its complaint lodged with that office on 15 June 2011, with respect to the JMPD’s maladministration under the AARTO Act. Despite having received the preliminary report of the Public Protector on this matter in December 2013, the report has not yet been finalised and we patiently await that report.  The JMPD has repeatedly complained about “wasteful expenditure” being incurred by properly serving AARTO infringement notices in compliance with the AARTO Act since it was essentially forced to stop violating it on 21 December 2012, after repeated admissions by the Minister of Transport that it was acting unlawfully. 

Despite multiple complaints having been lodged by us with the JMPD with respect to the manner in which they mount roadblocks which are primarily aimed at collecting fines revenues, no satisfactory feedback has been received and as a result, JPSA has resolved to proceed with legal action against the JMPD for their abuses and failure to act within the framework of the law.

SANRAL & NDoT to make submission to e-toll panel

JOHANNESBURG – Although there few things that could surprise JPSA when it comes to e-tolling, news that SANRAL and the National Department of Transport is reportedly to make submissions to the Gauteng e-tolls review panel “next month, ahead of the panel wrapping up its work, to ‘correct the distortions’ about the system which were now in the public domain” is a new low, even for them. 

SANRAL was invited to make its submissions to the panel a long time ago and instead of seizing the opportunity, they, the National Department of Transport and Minister Peters decided to actively try to discredit the panel, labelling it as little more than a farce and refusing to participate. Minister Peters even went so far as to say that she “has no duty to implement the findings of the panel” but now it would appear that she and her cohorts wish to manipulate those findings at a crucial time in the process – after representations and submissions have closed. 

It must not be forgotten that the schedule of the Gauteng e-tolls review panel has been and continues to be tight. It is due to present its report to Premier Makhura by no later than 30 November 2014 and as things stand it has a significant quantum of submissions to consider.  For SANRAL, the National Department of Transport and Minister Peters to now announce that they will address the panel during the time that it is supposed to be sifting through those submissions and the evidence placed before it and compiling its report is highly irregular at best. 

This action can be likened to a respondent in a court application failing to oppose such an application and then subsequently deciding to approach the Judge after the application has been heard and a Judge has reserved judgment, in an attempt to sway his or her judgment because that respondent now feels that an adverse finding may be reached against it. 

No-one is trying to or has tried to deny SANRAL, the National Department of Transport and Minister Peters their right to be heard, quite the opposite in fact. All we are saying is that there was a time and place for this to be done and all of them decided to be vindictive and dictatorial instead of seizing the moment and showing South Africans that they are reasonable people with a reasonable argument to present. They have absolutely no right to seek to interfere with the process significantly after submissions have closed and this must be viewed in a very dim light and should not be allowed. 

Verify drivers’ qualifications & PrDPs, JPSA urges

JOHANNESBURG – Subsequently to it emerging that the driver of the Heavy Goods Vehicle which killed four and injured scores of others on the N12 motorway on Tuesday 14 October 2014 has previous convictions for culpable homicide and reckless or negligent driving, Justice Project South Africa has again urged all motor vehicle owners to verify drivers’ qualifications before allowing them to drive their motor vehicles. 

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) provides a FREE online service to verify any person’s qualification to drive, including the verification of their driving licence and Professional Driving Permit (PrDP) at www.aarto.gov.za

What’s curious about this particular incident is that any driver who drives a heavy goods, dangerous goods or public transport vehicle is required by law to be in possession of a PrDP which, amongst other things requires a criminal record check to be conducted prior to its issue and since a PrDP must be renewed every two years, it’s not likely that Mr Isaac Marudeng could have acquired one legitimately. 

If he does have a PrDP, then all of the persons who have issued him with one since his criminal conviction in 1997 should be prosecuted, if it is a counterfeit, the counterfeiters hunted down and if he doesn’t have one at all, the operator who employed him should be prosecuted for allowing him to drive their vehicle. 

Sadly, the value of PrDPs is somewhat questionable because, except in the case of dangerous goods, no additional training and/or testing is required by the current PrDP system; however it’s all we have right now and if everything was done properly, the crash on Tuesday would never have occurred. 

Neither a driving licence, nor the PrDP which is imprinted on it can be verified by giving them a cursory glance and yet traffic officers rarely check the validity of these documents using the eNaTIS system. If they were to be checked on eNaTIS system every time traffic officers asked to see them, it is arguable that a lot of counterfeit and invalid documents would be detected. 

It is also rare for operators to be prosecuted for culpable homicide when their vehicles end up killing people as a result of them being unroadworthy. Operators; who make a living out of providing transport services should exercise even greater levels of care to ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy, but sadly it is not uncommon for them to do the exact opposite, acquire fraudulent roadworthy certificates and indeed, force drivers they employ to drive unroadworthy vehicles. 

Professional drivers should be educated by the likes of the National Department of Transport and the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) so that they know that they can anonymously report their employers for providing unroadworthy vehicles but sadly, they are not. The National Traffic Call Centre operated by the RTMC can be contacted on 0861 400 800 or by email at ntcc@rtmc.co.za

A resolution was adopted at the 2013 Road Safety Summit held by Transport Minister, Dipuo Peters for the requirements and standards of PrDPs to be reviewed and legislation amended, but in more than 12 months, no progress whatsoever has been made in this regard and the 2014 Summit was summarily cancelled due to “insufficient progress having been made” on this resolution and others. 

It’s all well and good for government to keep saying it “can’t make progress in road safety without NGOs and business assisting” but what it is doing is in fact abandoning its responsibilities and leaving it to NGOs and the like to get the message out there, except when photo opportunities present themselves for officials to engage in more blabber about road safety while practically nothing is done to achieve it.