Advisories & Articles

Recent SMS messages and emails masquerading as being from the RTIA

Since 21 September 2017, JPSA has been flooded with enquiries from members of the public who had received emails from the email address “RTIA@trafficnotification.co.za” craftily and deviously seeking to extort monies from them. These emails contain the logo of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (“RTIA”) and the words “Outstanding Infringements summary report as at 07 September 2017 (JMPD infringements only)” followed by a person’s name and full national identity number.

This is what the emails look like:

Below this “header” appears a schedule of outstanding infringement notices against the particulars of the person to whom the email was sent which looks something like this with *You will not be able to renew your vehicle or driving license whilst an Enforcement Order is outstanding trailing it:  

The above list includes up to 30 alleged infringements in it, which list may not necessarily be exhaustive, but only includes infringement notices issued by the JMPD.

And then there’s a table which looks like this:

Apparently, SMS messages have also been sent to some people, which look like this:

In both cases, the telephone number 011 036 7515 is listed as the contact number for the JMPD, however, this phone number does not exist in the real world.

So what’s the problem?

At the outset, it is important to note that we acknowledge that the reason people are receiving SMS messages and emails similar to this one is that they do indeed have outstanding infringement notices which exist against their particulars.

In most instances this would be as a result of a vehicle registered in the name of the person to whom the email is sent having allegedly committed one or more road traffic infringements – most probably speeding or parking infringement. If the infringement notice starts with the prefix “02” it’s most probably a speeding infringement and if it starts with the prefix “03” it’s most probably a parking infringement.

The likelihood of it being a parking infringement is extremely low, since the JMPD was well-known for its obsession for deploying hidden speed cameras and focusing on little other than speeding and little else, in the 16 years preceding the recent termination of illegally extended speed camera contracts, which may or may not have been revived by now.

JPSA’s issue is not with the fact that people are being notified of “traffic fines” which have been issued against those people’s particulars. Our “issue” is with the timing and manner in which this has been done since, without exception, those who have contacted us to ask about the ligitimacy of these emails have complained about not knowing that any of the fines listed had been issued, some of which date back five years to 2012, when the JMPD ceased unlawfully violating Section 30(1) of the AARTO Act by posting bogus “AARTO infringement notices” it had captured on its own systems since April 2010 by “ordinary domestic mail”.

In most instances, even where they don’t date back as far as 2102, the fines listed in these emails have mostly “stagnated” and in so doing, become unenforceable since procedure has not been followed by the authorities. Syntell, the JMPD and the RTIA are acutely aware of this fact and it is the JMPD itself which has repeatedly complained in the media and elsewhere that the RTIA has not done its job, but has instead, allowed these fines to stagnate.

It is therefore JPSA’s assertion that the email and SMS campaign launched by Syntell (Pty) Ltd, masquerading as the RTIA is at best, devious and seeks to take advantage of that portion of the public who may be unaware of the fact that many, if not most of these fines have “stagnated” and cannot result in an enforcement order being issued – ever.

We know that many people do not like having to read through a detailed explanation before getting to the nitty-gritty of how to deal with a situation, therefore we will provide this up front. Detailed information is however available later in this advisory.

Practical advice regarding these email notifications

If you have received one of these emails, it is our advice that you visit the aarto.gov.za website without delay and get a full printout of all of your outstanding infringements. If you have any enforcement orders, deal with those first.

Unfortunately, we have lost all faith in the ability of the RTIA to act impartially, since they have actively demonstrated that they are not. If you have any enforcement orders, you may find that you are left with little choice but to pay them in order to complete any licensing transaction you may be trying to complete.

With respect to any other posted infringement notice (starts with the prefix “02” or “03”) which is still at the “infringement notice” or “courtesy letter” stage, download, complete and submit an AARTO 10 election to be tried in court form for each and every infringement which exists against your particulars.

This will prevent the so-called “adjudication procedure” from continuing automatically and/or unexpectedly and will help you exercise your constitutional right to a fair trial. If/when you are summoned (in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act), you are perfectly entitled to raise the issue that the authorities have not complied with the so-called AARTO “adjudication procedure”.

Electing to be tried in court does not equate to unlawfully “evading liability” as has been asserted by the RTIA. Furthermore it does not equate to an intention of “flooding the court system” and would not be necessary if the RTIA simply had the credibility and genuine independence to “adjudicate” over matters from which it makes money.

JPSA and its Chairperson take extreme offence to the attitude of the RTIA that the Constitution does not apply to “traffic fines” and that issuing authorities and the RTIA cannot, or should not be held accountable by the courts.

Further details surrounding this issue

If you are interested in the full details surrounding this issue, please click on the button below.

Are these emails authentic?

No-one can be blamed for being suspicious of emails which appear out of the blue, claiming that they “owe monies” to anyone. In this particular case we can confirm that these emails are authentic insofar as they relate to the individuals who have received them, but this is only part of the story.

Please read on in order to fully understand why it is that although the facts contained in such emails are not untrue as such, the entire motivation and intention behind them is extremely devious and patently dishonest in nature.

Who or what is the “RTIA”?

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (“RTIA”) is a State Owned Enterprise which was created out of thin air by Section 3 of the AARTO Act.

The RTIA masquerades as being an “independent adjudicator between motorists and issuing authorities”. In reality however, when it comes down to the brass tacks of the AARTO Act, the RTIA is effectively little more than a “debt collector on steroids”, with far-reaching powers to effectively force the payment of traffic fines on behalf of all of the issuing authorities (traffic departments, etc.) where the AARTO Act applies and in order to create yet another revenue-focussed State Owned Enterprise.

We do not say this lightly and assert that the RTIA is not and never can be an “independent entity” which can be likened to the courts – even by the farthest stretch of the imagination.

More than 95% of the RTIA’s 2015/16 revenues came from its share of traffic fines, combined with the fees it raises upon courtesy letters, enforcement orders and written representations it makes unsuccessful; issued in terms of the AARTO Act. The grant it received from Parliament to sustain itself in that financial year represented just under one sixth of its salary bill alone.

Essentially, the RTIA can be likened to the proverbial wolf debating with a sheep who is going to have who for dinner! So much for its disingenuous motto: “justice in adjudication”.

Are these emails actually from the RTIA?

The domain names that are owned and operated by the RTIA are “aarto.gov.za” and “rtia.co.za” ONLY. Any emails which do not originate from either of these two domains are not from the RTIA itself, but from a third party who may or may not be authorised to send emails on the RTIA’s behalf.

We can unequivocally state that, even if these emails were sanctioned by the RTIA, they were not sent by the RTIA.

Who owns the domain trafficnotification.co.za?

The domain name “trafficnotification.co.za” is registered to Syntell (Pty) Ltd, one of the bigger private enterprise players in the traffic fines industry. Amongst a plethora of others, its clients include the JMPD, the RTIA, the EMPD and the City of Cape Town Traffic Services. The website www.paycity.co.za also belongs to Syntell.

Is Syntell authorised to use the RTIA’s logo?

Traffic fine “contractors” to the numerous traffic authorities throughout South Africa have been using the logos and/or badges of their clients in  email communications for ages now. Some have even gone so far as to establish call centres which redirect any queries meant for the traffic authority to whom they contract to their own private companies. In so doing, these private companies masquerade as being the actual traffic authority.

Syntell is no exception to this rule and simply loves plonking an official badge, logo and/or entity name other than its own on communications it sends out in an apparent effort to appear to be the traffic authority itself.

It is a fact that nowhere in the AARTO Act is the RTIA authorised to favour one issuing authority over another. This said, and given the fact that the RTIA has actively condoned may illegal practices under the AARTO Act in the past, is not beyond the realm of possibility that the RTIA may have authorised Syntell to use its name and logo in this particular email campaign.

However we would like to give the RTIA the benefit of the doubt and say it is unlikely that it and/or its management would have been so short-sighted to have authorised the sending of emails referring to outstanding AARTO infringement notices issued by only one issuing authority – namely the JMPD.

If the RTIA did indeed commission this email campaign, we are pretty sure that the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department (“TMPD”), Gauteng Department of Community Safety (GDoCS) and the Road Traffic Management Corportation’s (“RTMC’s”) so-called “National Traffic Police” would like to know why it is that their fines were actively excluded.

Issuing authorities’ duty to properly serve infringement notices

Without exception, each and every person who has contacted us regarding these emails has asserted that they knew nothing about the alleged infringements prior to receiving this email.

  • Section 30(1) of the AARTO Act clearly 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.”
  • Regulation 3(1)(b) of the AARTO Regulations clearly prescribes that “An infringement notice contemplated in section 17 (1) of the Act shall be issued and served or caused to be served to the infringer by registered mail, on a form similar to form AARTO 03 as shown in Schedule 1, within 40 days of the commission of the infringement.
  • Section 30(2) of the AARTO Act then goes on to introduce an unreasonable presumption that “A document which is sent by registered mail in terms of subsection (1), is regarded to have been served on the infringer on the tenth day after the date which is stamped upon the receipt issued by the post office which accepted the document for registration, unless evidence to the contrary is adduced, which may be in the form of an affidavit.”

Anyone who applies even a small portion of their mind would acknowledge that in order for someone to do anything about a traffic fine which has been issued against their particulars, they would need to know that this has happened. After all, how can anyone be expected to do anything about anything they know nothing about?

It’s one thing if a traffic officer stops you and issues you with a citation there and then, thus serving you with the infringement notice and making you aware of it immediately, but it is another issue entirely if you are not stopped, but instead have an infringement notice posted to you.

Without fail, each and every person who has queried these emails has asserted that they never knew anything about the existence of the infringement notices prior to the email and this can only mean that they were not served with them. In the vast majority of cases, the RTIA’s own “SAPO tracking detail” at its website confirms that service was not effected. Furthermore, in a high volume of cases, it also reflects that they were not even posted.

The RTIA’s duty to properly serve other AARTO documents

The AARTO Act is very specific in prescribing the processes which must follow one another within very strict, inflexible timeframes. The RTIA is responsible for issuing courtesy letters which must be issued if an alleged infringer has failed to exercise any of the so-called “elective options” upon an infringement notice within 32 days of the service of an infringement notice – and the issuing authority has informed the RTIA “in the prescribed manner”.

Once a courtesy letter has been issued, it must be elevated to an enforcement order if the alleged infringer has not exercised any of the three so-called “elective options” available to them in terms of a courtesy letter within 32 days of the service (or presumed service) of the courtesy letter. In the 2015/16 financial year, the RTIA issued 640,169 enforcement orders, arising out of 3,016,050 courtesy letters it issued.

All courtesy letters and enforcement orders must also be served in person or by “registered mail”. Remarkably, since the inception of the AARTO experiment in Tshwane and Johannesburg, the RTIA has not caused even a single courtesy letter or enforcement order to be served in person. Instead, it relies on “secure/hybrid mail” to post these important documents, despite knowing that there is something seriously wrong with the functionality of this product offering of the South African Post Office.

“Stagnated” fines

It has repeatedly been held that AARTO infringement notices which have not complied with the so-called “adjudication procedure” as is prescribed in the AARTO Act have “stagnated” – in other words, become unenforceable. The most recent reference thereto comes from a High Court Review Judgment in the matter between Fines 4 U (Pty) Ltd and Audi Johannesburg versus Sherman Amos (the Deputy Registrar of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency) and others (Pretoria High Court Case number 30586/2014).

Simply put, because the AARTO Act prescribes the processes which must be followed by both, alleged infringers and the authorities, entities like the issuing authorities and the RTIA may not make things up as they go along. If no further action has resulted from the issuing of an infringement notice within the prescribed time frame, then no further action may lawfully result. This in turn causes that infringement notice to “stagnate”, wherein it cannot proceed any further.

Contrary to popular belief and arising out of inaccurate news reports, Judge Prinsloo and the High Court did not order that “all stagnated traffic fines must be cancelled” programatically. What his judgment did hold however is that anyone who becomes aware of the fact that they have such stagnated AARTO infringement notices against their particulars may raise the issue that that the so-called “adjudication procedure” has not been followed and for that reason, the fine should be cancelled.

Why is the RTIA keeping stagnated fines alive?

The practice of keeping traffic fines which have stagnated alive on websites and other computer systems is not new to South Africa, nor is it unique to the AARTO Act and/or the RTIA. In fact, this practice is so widespread that it would be impossible to list every traffic authority that does so. More accurately, we have been unable to find even one which doesn’t.

Where the AARTO Act is not in force, but instead the Criminal Procedure Act applies, there is even a  national directive from the National Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw and finalise any and all traffic fines issued by traffic authorities which have not resulted in the issuing (and service) of a summons within 18 months of the alleged offence. This is not a “new” directive as such, it merely standardises the former provincial directives which varied the time frame within which this process must happen. Nevertheless, all of these directives have been ignored by traffic authorities and their contractors since the year dot.

The apparent reasoning behind keeping stagnated fines alive appears to arise from a belief that some, less well-informed people will pay fines which simply cannot proceed any further in the false belief that the threats leveled against them will actually be carried out if they don’t pay. They can’t and therefore, asserting that they can is tantamount to extortion and outright fraud.

The RTIA’s reasoning for keeping stagnated fines alive appears to be predicated much along the same lines, except insofar as the AARTO Act doesn’t actually prescribe what must happen if the issuing authorities and/or the RTIA does not do their jobs. Very little legislation contemplates the failure on the part of authorities to do their jobs, quite simply because it is assumed that because they are law enforcers, they will.

If such authorities don’t do their jobs as prescribed, it falls upon the public to take the authorities to court in order to force them to act within the framework of the law.

Has JPSA written to the RTIA about this issue?

Since Howard Dembovsky and JPSA were grossly and unjustly insulted by politicians in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Transport in September 2016, we are done writing to the RTIA and others involved in the “AARTO issue”. Any future such debates will take place in a forum where politicians do not get to actively demonstrate their immunity from defamation suits.

UPDATE

On 27 September, the RTIA put out the following media statement, “apologising” for the so-called “communication error” in SMS communications. As you will see, no reference was made or even implied with respect to the email communications which were sent. JPSA takes a very dim view of this disingenuous and misleading so-called “apology” and has written to the RTIA to inform it as such.

Cessation of “pay as you go” speeding fines in Joburg no great loss

JOHANNESBURG – As revealed in the Moneyweb article entitled “No more camera fines for Joburg speedsters” on Wednesday 17 August 2017, the City of Johannesburg is not currently issuing and posting somewhere in the region of a half a million camera “speeding” fines each month, as it used to do in the past.

Instead, traffic officers – some equipped with speed measuring equipment – are being utilised to physically and visibly enforce road traffic laws in and around the City.

This is due to the termination of a string of contracts with private “contractors” which previously supplied the City with portable speed cameras to “hide in the bushes” in an effort to generate revenue, and whose whose contracts could not lawfully be extended. JPSA believes that this is a good thing, as opposed to the bad thing it is being made out to be.

There are those who believe that this development means that “motorists can now speed with impunity” but whilst it may be true that physical law enforcement is not capable of generating as many fines as automated entrapment is, physical enforcement is nonetheless way more effective. Where delinquent motorists are stopped at the time of the alleged infringement and taken to task immediately this has the bonus effect of preventing the possible consequences that could arise out of non-compliance with speed limits.

The proponents of camera-based “speed enforcement” make claims of it enhancing road safety, whilst simultaneously failing to provide any empirical evidence to support their claims that hidden speed cameras reduce crashes. Instead, what is apparent from the annual reports of entities such as the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) which administers the AARTO Act’s “adjudication procedure” is that the payment rate of fines which are posted is extremely low but is compensated by high volumes.

In the 2015/16 financial year, the RTIA reported that a grand total of R264,261,091 was collected and paid to the four issuing authorities under the AARTO Act in relation to the 6,720,193 infringement notices issued, 82.07% of which were posted.

The RTIA pocketed a further R224,628,726 arising out of its share of the penalties and the fees due to them which were paid. The RTIA does not break its figures down into which issuing authority received what and when, but since the JMPD was responsible for issuing 79.48% of the infringement notices issued in that financial year, it is reasonable to assume that a significant chunk of the revenue collected went to the JMPD.

Traffic law enforcement should never be about generating revenue for Municipalities, agencies and private companies, but sadly, it is and has been for decades. Road safety considerations come a distant last place in the big scheme of things.

“I’m not sure what road safety benefit can be ascribed to ‘pay as you go’ speeding fines which arguably benefit private ‘contractors’ above and beyond anyone else,” said JPSA’s chairperson, Howard Dembovsky.

“Based purely on a casual observation of the behaviour of motorists in Johannesburg, I have not noticed any increase in the incidents of speeding since the withdrawal of the portable speed cameras the JMPD used to deploy,” he concluded.

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Refusal of licence discs, driving licenses and PrDPs

Introduction

For at least two years now, Justice Project South Africa has been dealing with a high volume of queries from members of the public who have been affected by administrative blocks on NaTIS which prevent licensing transactions.

While the South African Post Office is spreading mass panic by telling people that they can’t renew their licence disc “because a warrant of arrest has been issued”, neither this nor the tactics employed by licensing authorities where they tell people they must pay all of their traffic fines in order to get their disc is typically true.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the public is apparently ignorant with respect to why this is happening, given the fact that part of the mandate of traffic authorities and government agencies is to educate the public. In particular, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) is quick to boast about how it is responsible for educating the public on AARTO, however little evidence of this actually happening exists. Continue reading

Transportation of school children (and other people) on bakkies

 

What you need to know about the amendment of Regulation 250 of the National Road Traffic Regulations.

On 11 May 2017, it will become specifically illegal to transport school children for reward in the goods compartment of any vehicle. Many people, including but not limited to the Minister and spokespersons for the Department of Transport have lauded this as being a giant stride in the right direction for road safety. I completely disagree and here’s why: Continue reading

Is insurance claim repudiation the answer to “drunk” driving?

Howard Dembovsky writes…

It has become common for insurance companies to include clauses in their policies where it is held that if a person drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs having a narcotic effect, their claim will be repudiated in the event of a claim. It has also become increasingly more common of late for them to repudiate claims citing the involvement of alcohol in crashes.

When I first heard that this was the case, I thought “good – at least someone is doing something and there will be a consequence which befalls those who drink and drive”. After all, the current state of affairs insofar as it relates to the prosecution of driving under the influence of alcohol is shambolic and both, I personally and JPSA have a long and vociferous history in trying to actively address this problem.
Continue reading

Rescheduling road traffic offences to Schedule 5 offences is not the answer

Howard Dembovsky writes…

It is not unusual for reactionary, emotional and downright illogical statements to arise from the Minister of Transport and the RTMC when it becomes clear that no progress is being made in stemming the tide of road carnage in South Africa, but the latest assertions emanating therefrom are truly frightening and downright reckless.

When announcing the latest festive season road fatalities which amounted to 42 immediate deaths per day arising out of the 1,755 total deaths during the 2015/16 festive season, Ms Peters said “I have been deeply concerned by those caught speeding and the seeming ease with which these speedsters were granted bail”. She also said “The reclassification of all road traffic offences to Schedule 5 of the Criminal Procedure Act will receive high priority in our endeavour and quest for a mandatory minimum sentence for drunken driving, for inconsiderate and reckless and negligent driving.” Continue reading

Planning your journey – it’s not as simple as it used to be

Potholes

Lewis Caroll said: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Unfortunately, Mr Caroll lived during the 19th Century and he most certainly did not live in South Africa.

According to the ¹South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), South Africa has an estimated roads network of some 750,000 kilometres, of which only 158,124 kilometres were tarred as at 19 August 2014. Some of these tar roads are in a fair to good condition and, in a few cases, excellent condition and some may as well not be tarred since they are so pitted with potholes that they can hardly be defined as safe roads upon which to drive. Gravel roads bring with them their own set of problems, not least of which is that most city cars (and drivers) are simply not fit to drive on them. Continue reading

JPSA’s submission on government gazette 39482 AARTO Regulations draft amendments

Department of Transport
Private Bag X193
PRETORIA
0001

ATTENTION: Mr Sello Mokubyane and Adv N Thoka

PER EMAIL TO: MokubyaS@dot.gov.za and Thokan@dot.gov.za

Your Ref: GOVERNMENT GAZETTE No. 39482, NOTICE No. 1204, 7 DECEMBER 2015
Our Ref: GG
39482 Comments

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Dear Sirs,

PUBLICATION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION OF ROAD TRAFFIC OFFENCES ACT, 1998, ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION OF ROAD TRAFFIC OFFENCES AMENDMENT REGULATIONS, 2008 FOR COMMENTS

 

  1. We refer to the proposed amendments to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Regulations, 2008 tabled in Notice No. 1204 of 2015 in Government Gazette No. 39482 of Monday 7 December, 2015.

Continue reading

Your licence disc, driving licence or PrDP has been refused – now what?

Introduction

Recently Justice Project South Africa has been dealing with a high volume of queries from members of the public who have been affected by administrative blocks on NaTIS which prevent licensing transactions.

While the South African Post Office is spreading mass panic by telling people that they can’t renew their licence disc “because a warrant of arrest has been issued”, neither this nor the tactics employed by licensing authorities where they tell people they must pay all of their traffic fines in order to get their disc is typically true. Continue reading

Section 35 of the National Road Traffic Act.

Road Traffic Offences for which your driving licence MUST be suspended

Abstract

On a monthly basis, we receive a mountain of enquiries from people who have been informed that they are to be summoned to appear in court on “No Admission of Guilt” (NAG) matters and it is becoming untenable to reply to each and every enquiry repeating what is mostly a standard response. For this reason, we have decided to put this web page up so everyone comes to understand the seriousness of these matters and hopefully avoids falling foul of the law. Continue reading