Media Releases

JPSA supports the AA’s licensing extension request

Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) supports the call of the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) for Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula to extend the validity period of all licenses beyond the 30 August deadline. It also urges the Minister to consider doing the same in respect of professional driving permits, and to give special consideration to the difficulties experienced by learner drivers, as a direct effect of the lockdown.

“Learner drivers whose learner’s licenses expired or are still to expire after 31 May are particularly adversely affected,” said JPSA chairperson, Howard Dembovsky. “During the ‘hard lockdown’ learner drivers could not undergo any formal instruction through driving schools, which were prohibited from operating under ‘levels 5 and 4’.”

He also asserted that the resultant demand for new tests for learner drivers who were affected by the lockdown will impact on volumes of applicants to repeat such learners’ tests. “This, in turn has a counterintuitive effect on social distancing, particularly in DLTCs where bookings must be done in person,” Dembovsky said.

Regarding professional driving permits, Dembovsky said that the process to renew a PrDP is more cumbersome than any licence and where one has or is to expire after 31 May 2020, such demand for renewals will have a similar counterintuitive effect, not only in DLTCs, but in doctors’ waiting rooms.

“We hope that the Minister will give the AA’s and our requests his urgent consideration,” he concluded.

The AA’s request to the Minister appears below:

Letter to Minister Mbalula Re License Extension (29 June 2020)

Compulsory wearing of face masks in public places

Since 1 May 2020, it has been law that a cloth face mask, homemade item or other item which covers the nose and mouth of its wearer must be worn in public, when entering buildings or premises, or while travelling in public transport. It has also been law that all employees of businesses who may come into contact with members of the public must be provided with such a mask or covering by their employer.

While it is law that such coverings must be worn, some people appear to be ignoring this requirement. Because no offences for failing to do so have been defined in the regulations, strictly speaking, no-one may lawfully be arrested or prosecuted for such failure. A law enforcement official may however instruct a non-compliant person to either put on such a covering in his or her presence or go home. Failure to do so would constitute the offence of failing to comply with the instructions of a law enforcement official, which is an offence.

The absence of prescribed offences (lacuna) in the law should not be seen as an excuse to not wear coverings. The idea behind everyone wearing some form of protective gear is to mitigate the risks of spreading of COVID-19. It is both foolish and inconsiderate not to wear an appropriate face mask or covering. Simply put, the intended purpose is: “I protect you from me – you protect me from you,” and has been used to great effect in some other countries.

People should however be careful when buying face masks. Because homemade and makeshift face coverings are not subject to any standards, specifications or regulations, anyone can make and sell them.

We have recently learned that some entrepreneurs have taken to selling fabric masks at such places taxi ranks and allowing potential buyers to try them on before purchasing. This practice is extremely dangerous and defeats the entire purpose of wearing a face mask. Common sense dictates that if a person who tries a facemask on unknowingly has COVID-19 and hands it back to the seller to sell it to someone else, the virus can easily be spread.

To download Government Gazette 43258 of 30 April 2020, please click here. The applicable regulations are regulations 5 and 14 and their sub-regulations.

National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 to be introduced to Parliament “during 2020”

On Friday 3 April 2020, the Minister of Transport published his intention to introduce the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 to Parliament during its 2020 sittings, in the separate Government Gazette number 43201.

This comes after Cabinet announced the proposed introduction of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2019 to Parliament in a media statement dated 12 March 2020, shortly before the national sate of disaster came into effect.

Since the commencement of the lockdown, a flood of directions have been published in the Government Gazette, with numerous new and overriding directions being issued on a daily basis, while government decrees new provisions to address the COVID-19 pandemic, in the complete absence of normal democratic processes which are largely suspended during a national sate of disaster.

Although its publication is a democratically mandated requirement, its timing appears to be an attempt to fly the said referral to Parliament under the radar while constantly evolving COVID-19 legislation causes considerable distraction from normal legislative processes.

The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2015 was originally published for public comment in Government Gazette 37249 of 28 January 2015, with a closing date for inputs of 28 February 2015. Although numerous draft amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations which rely on the passing of the Bill into law have been published for comment since then, no amendments to the Bill have been published since 2015.

Despite numerous efforts to obtain a copy of the 2019 and/or 2020 version of the Bill, Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has been unable to do so. On Friday 4 April, JPSA again wrote to senior officials at the Department of Transport to request a copy of the latest Bill.

Owing to the absence of an updated Bill, JPSA is unable to comment on what is contained in the 2020 version at this stage, beyond citing the long list of provisions stated in the objects of the Bill recorded in the latest Government Gazette, announcing its introduction to Parliament.

These provisions include numerous provisions applicable to number plates, microdots, the regulation of driving schools and the removal of the permissible breath and blood alcohol limit for the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol. The latter has been on the cards since the publication of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2012 (see Government Gazette 35528 of 18 July 2012).

Prior to the lockdown, Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula has repeatedly stated that the zero-alcohol “limit” is contained in the AARTO Amendment Act, signed by the President on 19 August 2019 and which Mbalula claims will come into effect nationally on 1 June. To date, the commencement of the AARTO Amendment Act has not been proclaimed by the President and Mbalula is not empowered to proclaim its commencement.

Whether it comes into force on 1 June or not, alcohol levels while driving are not provided for in the AARTO Amendment Act.

If the zero-alcohol level is to take effect from 1 June, this means the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 will have to be fast-tracked through Parliament when Parliament resumes its normal operations.

To achieve the 1 June implementation date, the usual democratic processes of passing the 2020 Bill through the National Assembly, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Transport, the National Council of Provinces, further public participation, back to the National Assembly and then onto the President to assent to it, sign it into law and proclaim its commencement in less than two months will undoubtedly have to be sacrificed. Whether this will pass constitutional muster is debatable.

This is more especially so considering that no-one except possibly a few elite politicians and bureaucrats appear to know what is contained in the 2020 Bill.

The objects quoted in last Friday’s Government Gazette are far from everything contemplated in the 2015 Bill. Among the other previously proposed provisions are the introduction of a “graduated driving licence system”, known as a “provisional driving license” which will see newly qualified drivers being subjected to stringent limitations for a period after passing their practical driving licence test.

Also contained in proposed regulations that followed the 2015 Bill, is the proposal to retest all current holders of driving licences every five years when they are compelled to renew their driving licence cards. The feasibility of this proposal has virtually been destroyed by the shambles created by the Gauteng pilot implementation of the online driving licence test and driving licence card renewal booking system implemented in 2019, even if the yet to be determined retesting criteria are clarified.

Only those who have followed the developments of the numerous draft legislative provisions since the Bill was first published for public comment in July 2012 will be able to make head or tail of what the enactment of the 2020 version of the Bill may mean. However, in the absence of the wording of the 2020 version, together with any amendments to the draft regulations, even those who have followed their progress are effectively in the dark.

JPSA will do its best to keep the media and the public updated on what lies ahead but can only do so if the Department of Transport is transparent.

Announcement of the introduction of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 to Parliament in Government Gazette number 43201 of 3 April 2020

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National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2015 in Government Gazette 37249 of 28 January 2015

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National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2012 in Government Gazette 35528 of 18 July 2012

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The time has long since passed to formalise the “blue light protocol”

It can be terrifying to see blue flashing lights in your rear-view mirror, particularly with the prevalence of bogus cops on South Africa’s roads. So why is there no formal way to deal with this scary situation?

JOHANNESBURG – On 6 December 2019 Justice Project South Africa announced the withdrawal of its endorsement of the “Combatting of Blue Light Gangs Protocol” (often shortened to the “Blue Light Protocol”) it had developed together with the Road Traffic Management Corporation in late 2013.

This arose from an increasing number of violent attacks on and threats levelled against motorists by genuine law enforcement officials who appeared to either be unaware of the protocol or had deliberately chosen to disregard it.

The protocol was intended to protect motorists from attacks by criminals posing as law enforcement officials, together with the brutality sometimes perpetrated by overzealous law enforcement officials.

Shortly thereafter, a revised protocol was developed and sent to the Police Ministry by anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee, for consideration for it to be ratified and incorporated into SAPS standing orders. We have heard nothing further from SAPS since then.

Today, the office of the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS, Gauteng put out a media release in which the Provincial Commissioner advised motorists who felt uncertain about the authenticity of law enforcement officials trying to stop them, to follow the protocol, which he shortened into a paragraph which reads:

“This type of crime is real. Members of the public are thus urged to exercise caution and in the event that they suspect that they are being stopped by bogus cops, put on their hazards and drive to a nearby police station or even a filling station. Motorists should also have the SAPS 10111 number on speed dial and make the call when it is safe to do so.”

Peculiarly, in December 2019, Brigadier Vish Naidoo – national spokesperson for SAPS denied the existence of the former protocol which has been on the Arrive Alive website since November 2013. He authoritatively said: “if police tell you to stop, you must stop” and “people must stop undermining the authority of the State”.

Abramjee, who has come out in open support of the protocol says: “We need this blue light protocol as a matter of urgency. Motorists are scared of stopping and one can understand why. We’ve had a number of incidents recently again where bogus cops have attacked motorists.”

“I have today made contact with SAPS to request an urgent meeting with SAPS legal services officials and the Provincial Commissioner but feel this matter urgently needs to be escalated to the National Commissioner,” said Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of JPSA.

“It is very dangerous for the top brass of SAPS to advise motorists to take precautionary measures to avoid falling foul of bogus cops, while simultaneously failing to formalise the protocol so that every law enforcement official is aware of it and follows it, without resorting to violence and abuse,” he concluded.

SAPS media release appears below:

Office of the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS, Gauteng
13 February 2020
MOTORISTS URGED TO REPORT POLICE OFFICERS USING UNDUE FORCE ON THEM FOR FAILING TO STOP AT NIGHT
Parktown – Management of the SAPS in Gauteng has noted with concern, a social media post accusing police of brutality in relation to motorists being stopped, particularly at night.
The post further suggests that police refused to open a case for a complainant after one such incident, citing reasons that management will now look into and take action should any wrongdoing be found.
Police management views these allegations in a serious light, and wish to assure the public that action will be taken against any member found on the wrong side of the law. Gauteng Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela is calling upon the person who drafted this specific social media post to contact police to lay a formal complaint or open a case. The person may visit their nearest police station, call the Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or give a tip off on the MySAPS app that can be downloaded onto any smartphone. Information will be treated with confidentiality.
In the meantime, police on 08 February 2020, arrested two alleged blue-light hijackers in Mabopane. This came as a result of intense investigations after police picked up a trend in a number hijackings where motorists were hijacked by either a VW Polo and/or a silver Corsa sedan, both fitted with blue lights.
“This type of crime is real. Members of the public are thus urged to exercise caution and in the event that they suspect that they are being stopped by bogus cops, put on their hazards and drive to a nearby police station or even a filling station. Motorists should also have the SAPS 10111 number on speed dial and make the call when it is safe to do so,” advised the Provincial Commissioner.
Police management will ensure that awareness is raised internally to ensure that members ultimately approach this type of situation rationally.
For media enquiries:
Captain Kay Makhubele
SAPS Gauteng
082 xxx 0402

JPSA withdraws endorsement of “Blue Light Protocol”

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa has announced that it has withdrawn its endorsement of the “Blue Light Protocol” which it developed with the Road Traffic Management Corporation in 2013. This comes in the wake of CCTV footage showing a woman being violently manhandled by Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers at a petrol station on the night of 5 December, after she allegedly failed to stop for them in a poorly lit area.

 

JPSA Chair, Howard Dembovsky said the protocol was developed to combat the prevalence of criminals using easily acquired blue lights and other police equipment to pose as law enforcement authorities.

He said that so-called “blue light gangs” had been committing violent crimes ranging from robbery, hijacking and kidnapping to rape and murder for many years, but that police had failed to effectively tackle the problem. “Despite this fact, numerous police and traffic officers are wholly insensitive to this issue and incorrectly believe that they are empowered by the law to abuse members of the public who try to protect themselves from violent crime,” he commented.

“In some instances, people have been beaten up. In others, they have been shot at and even been killed by overzealous law enforcement officials. This cannot go on and if, as it appears to be, the Blue Light Protocol is contributing to this abuse, JPSA can no longer endorse it,” he declared. He explained that the National Road Traffic Act requires a motorist to immediately stop for a traffic officer in uniform. Police are also included in the definition of a traffic officer in terms of the Act.

He added that although failure to stop is a criminal offence, if a motorist felt unsafe, he or she should immediately call 10111 to verify the authenticity of the police stopping them and prepare to flee if anything goes awry.

“Should it turn out that the individuals stopping a motorist are criminals posing as police, the motorist should, where possible, institute civil and criminal proceedings against the culprits and the police, the latter of whom are constitutionally obliged to protect them from criminality,” Dembovsky commented.

“In this case, it is our view that the officers concerned should be prosecuted for assault, since it is clear that the woman was merely trying to guard against falling victim to violent crime and was not fleeing from police,” he concluded.

UPDATE: A revised and improved protocol will be released and announced shortly.

Draft AARTO Regulations published for public comment

Minister of Transport – Fikile Mbalula

JOHANNESBURG – Draft regulations in respect of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Act are inconsistent with the Constitution and are likely to result in further legal challenges. This is according to Justice Project South Africa Chair, Howard Dembovsky.

The regulations were published in the Government Gazette number 42765 of 11 October 2019, and can be downloaded at:  http://www.gpwonline.co.za/Gazettes/Gazettes/42765_11-10_Transport.pdf

“The draft regulations provide a more complete picture which should have been available during the public consultation phases,” Dembovsky said. “But they go far beyond merely amending the existing regulations – they repeal all the existing regulations and create an entirely new set of regulations,” he said.

“The ‘consultations’ held by the national and provincial legislatures when the AARTO Amendment Bill was being discussed centred only on the Act,” he continued. “But the draft regulations comprise over a hundred pages with scores of new provisions,” he commented.

Although an Act is passed by Parliament, regulations may be made by the Minister without the scrutiny of the legislature. Dembovsky said that this practice was flawed and allowed regulation without Parliamentary oversight.

The foundations of the AARTO Act itself are already set to face a constitutional challenge brought by Dembovsky in April 2018. That matter is to be heard in the Pretoria High Court in early 2020 and is largely unaffected by the AARTO Amendment Act, which is likely to face its own legal challenges.

“At a first reading, the regulations appear to have been rushed to completion and leave many details to the discretion of functionaries and institutions instead of providing clarity on exactly how the processes outlined in the AARTO Amendment Act are to function,” Dembovsky explained. “In particular, the regulations virtually ensure that road users seeking to challenge infringement notices will be confronted with onerous bureaucratic hurdles.”

Dembovsky urged members of the public, and especially legal professionals, to scrutinise the draft regulations, and to submit their comments, objections and suggested amendments before the 10 November deadline.

“In JPSA’s view, a comment period of 30 days is far too short to allow thorough public scrutiny of a complete re-write of regulations pertaining to the recent extensive re-write of the AARTO Act,” he said. “Notwithstanding our encouragement to the public to submit their comments, we believe that the comment period should be extended substantially and call on the Department of Transport to do so,” he concluded.

Footnote:

To make sense of the draft regulations, it is necessary to have the AARTO Amendment Act at hand. The Amendment Act can be downloaded at: http://www.gpwonline.co.za/Gazettes/Gazettes/42648_19-8_Act4of2019AdminiAdjudicRoadTrafficOffencesAmendAct.pdf

Festive season road deaths a catastrophe – JPSA

JOHANNESBURG – The announcement made today by Transport Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande that 1,612 people died during the 2018/19 festive season yet again represents a catastrophic event in the history of South Africa. This is according to the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA).

JPSA chair, Howard Dembovsky, said he could not understand how the figure announced today had declined by around 200 over the road deaths announced by SABC radio on 28 December 2018.

“It is also hard to see how this festive season’s fatalities of 1,612 allegedly represents a “reduction of 7%” when the reported figure up to 9 January 2018 was 1,573,” Dembovsky said. “This represents a 2.5% increase in road fatalities over the same period last year and a fatality rate of 42 people per day.”

JPSA has said the RTMC continued to use unequal monitoring periods. In 2017/18, the monitoring period was 1 December to 15 January (46 days). In 2018/19 it was 1 December to 8 January (39 days). This means that the number of people killed per day on the roads over the Christmas period has risen from 36 last year to 42 this year. “We should not be satisfied about a 17% increase in the daily fatality rate,” Dembovsky commented.

JPSA said Nzimande’s announcement contained incorrect information about the role of bail, and again promoted the fiction that it is legally possible for serious road traffic offences to be re-classified to Schedule 5 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

JPSA referred to its previous statements on how the RTMC and Department of Transport has misinterpreted the Schedules of the Criminal Procedure Act, and specifically how no provision exists in that Act to detain anyone accused of any crime, no matter how serious, for “a minimum of 7 days” without being brought before a Court for a formal bail hearing.

“It is glaringly obvious that the RTMC, together with the Department and Minister of Transport continue to do the same things and expect different results,” Dembovsky said. “Most notably, it is clear that the RTMC lacks understanding or control of the road safety situation,” he concluded.

Driving licence card production backlog remains a big problem

File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Transport has said it will fine motorists for driving with expired driving licence cards, even where the Driving Licence Card Authority (DLCA) has been unable to provide the driving licence card after a proper application was made by the motorist.

Justice Project South Africa has criticised this move. “The DLCA is currently backlogged with applications due to a strike,” said JPSA chair, Howard Dembovsky. “A spokesperson for the Department of Transport has stated that a directive has been issued to law enforcement authorities not to prosecute motorists whose driving licence cards have expired without the new card being received as a result of the backlog.”

However, the KZN Department of Transport’s stance is that such motorists must, at a cost of R100 each, obtain temporary driving permits, or face prosecution.

JPSA said it would be surprised if the  KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport could convince a court to convict a motorist who has made reasonable efforts to comply with the provisions of the National Road Traffic Act (NRTA), but has been denied a renewed driving licence card due to the inability of the National Department of Transport to produce it within the three month extension period provided for in the NRTA.

“This announcement is also cynical, coming in the midst of the festive season travel period when testing centres are unlikely to be able to meet such a sudden demand for temporary licences, and with many motorists already on holiday away from their homes and without access to the supporting documentation needed for an application,” Dembovsky added.

He reminded motorists that a driving licence is valid indefinitely, until such time as it is suspended or cancelled. It is only the driving licence card which should be renewed every five and a professional driving permit (also on a driving licence card) which must be renewed every two years.

Although a court may take the view that it is the motorist’s duty not to drive in contravention of the law, it is the State’s duty to ensure compliance is possible. JPSA strongly recommends that anyone who is fined after making application for the renewal of their driving licence card or professional driving permit defends the matter on the basis that compliance is not reasonably possible at such short notice during the festive season, and that the direct cause of the non-compliance is the State’s failure to manage the DLCA effectively.

BEWARE! Bogus “advice” on warrants of arrest

JOHANNESBURG – Over the weekend, a document purporting to be offering the services of the Law Society of South Africa and urging motorists to know their rights has again been doing the rounds on social media.

Justice Project South Africa has been in contact with the Law Society of South Africa and has also unsuccessfully tried to contact the former Law Society of the Northern Provinces, which has been replaced by the Legal Practice Council, to alert them to this anomaly. The Law Society of South Africa has confirmed the bogus nature of this document and says that it has been intermittently doing the rounds for around nine years now.

The “advice” given in this document is not only completely incorrect but is extremely reckless and malicious.

Warrants of arrest in respect of road traffic infringements have not existed in the Cities of Tshwane and Johannesburg since 2008, due to the implementation of the AARTO Act which does not include a warrant of arrest.

Elsewhere in the country, where road traffic offences are still prosecuted using the Criminal Procedure Act (including Ekurhuleni and Mogale City which abut Johannesburg and Tshwane) warrants of arrest are issued by Magistrates in respect of motorists who fail to appear in court when summoned to do so.

This arises out of written notices to appear in court in terms of Section 56 of the Criminal Procedure Act and summonses issued and served in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act being ignored by some motorists.

Warrants of arrest may be executed by any peace officer, not just a traffic officer or policeman and resisting arrest will almost certainly land that person in even hotter water than they would have been had they simply cooperated. In addition, a peace officer is empowered to arrest any person who commits an offence in his or her presence.

No-one may be arrested for failing to carry their driving licence with them, however they can be issued with a fine for failing to do so.

JPSA has repeatedly refuted several similar bogus documents and will continue to do so. We advise motorists NOT TO follow ANY of the “advice” in this bogus document doing the rounds on social media.

It is particularly important for motorists to know their rights and responsibilities around this time of the year because the festive season is almost upon us and with it will come intensified roadblocks all over the country. For further details on your rights as a motorist, please visit https://www.arrivealive.co.za/Rights-and-Obligations-when-stopped-by-a-Traffic-Officer.

RTMC’s 7 days in jail before bail “proposal” absurd at best – JPSA

JOHANNESBURG – Since Sunday 4 November 2018, the media has been abuzz over the RTMC’s plans to introduce a “7-days’ in jail policy” before a person who stands accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, reckless or negligent driving, or speeding may apply for bail.

In the Sunday Times report which triggered the buzz, Advocate Makhosini Msibi is quoted as saying: “Above all, it must not be automatic, you must spend seven days [in jail] before you can bring the application for bail.”

So vociferous are Msibi’s absurd assertions that on page 5 of the RTMC’s “Revised Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020” (signed off by Dr Blade Nzimande), Msibi states that “One of the initiatives [of the RTMC] is to re-classify all road traffic offences to Schedule 5 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA)”. Simply put, this means that even a person who is arrested for parking their vehicle incorrectly should, in Msibi’s mind, be detained for seven days prior to being permitted to launch a bail application.

There is no provision whatsoever, in any South African law which authorises the South African Police Service to detain a person for seven days prior to bringing that person before a court. In fact, the Criminal Procedure Act expressly prescribes that every arrested person must be brought before a court within 48 hours of their arrest and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa expressly forbids the apartheid era style of detention without trial that the RTMC clearly wishes to reintroduce into South African society.

This “proposal” is absurd at best and represents little more than a crude attempt by the RTMC to abuse the well-established and legally sound bail process in our criminal justice system. It should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

Listen into SAfm at 09:30 on Wednesday 7 November where Howard Dembovsky will be going head to head with the RTMC on this topic.