Media Releases

71 percent increase in vehicle licensing transaction fees must be explained

On 6 October 2017, Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi published the increased transaction fee which will be charged on eNaTIS vehicle licensing transactions applicable with effect from 1 February 2018, in Government Gazette 41170. The transaction fee is charged, over and above the actual vehicle licensing fee which goes to the registering authority, and is payable to the Road Traffic Management Corporation.

The increase of R30 per transaction equates to a whopping 71.43% increase in this transaction fee, raising it from R42 per transaction to R72 per transaction. In the previous year, the former Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters increased this transaction fee from R36 to R42 per transaction, an increase of 16.67%.

The current reported inflation rate in South Africa is 4.8% as at August 2017 and therefore, the latest published transaction fee exceeds the current inflation rate by almost fifteen times.

According to its annual report, the RTMC managed to rake in R453,143,790 in transactions fees in the 2016/17 financial year, an increase of R33,299,526.00 or 7.93% over the 2015/16 financial year, despite fewer transactions having apparently occurred in the last financial year.

At the same time, the remuneration package of the CEO of the RTMC increased by 31.6% from R5,950,000 in 2015/16 to an enormous R7,830,000 in the 2016/17 financial year. Other executive senior management remuneration packages at the RTMC increased by an average of 19.11% whilst non-executive Board members’ remuneration packages increased by an average of 22.16%. Simultaneously, the RTMC’s employee-related costs came to R367,107,340 in 2016/17.

The recent termination of the RTMC’s contract with Tasima, which contact was unlawfully renewed by former Minister S’bu Ndebele in 2010, should have had the effect of decreasing the input and maintenance costs of the eNaTIS vehicle and driver registry and therefore, beyond increasing the outrageously high remuneration packages which are paid to RTMC executives and Board members, there appears to be no rational reason for the truly massive increase in transaction fees the Minister has proclaimed.

This is more especially true given the fact that the vehicle population is growing with each year that goes by. Between 30 September 2016 and 30 September 2017, the registered vehicle population grew by 211,816, a figure which is consistent with the trends of vehicle registrations which have taken place in recent years. As at 30 September 2017, there were 12,153,062 vehicles registered on eNaTIS, all of which must be licensed annually, regardless of whether they are used on public roads or not.

JPSA calls on Minister Maswanganyi to justify, or at the very least explain the whopping increase in transaction fees he has proclaimed, especially in light of the fact that the RTMC has consistently failed to achieve its mandate with respect to enhancing road safety and reducing the catastrophically high carnage which exists on South Africa’s roads.

Wholly inadequate “apology” from the RTIA

On Tuesday 26 September 2017, JPSA put out a media release dealing with a flurry of SMS and email communications sent out by Syntell (Pty) Ltd on behalf of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (“RTIA”).

JPSA takes note of the media statement put out by the RTIA on Wednesday 27 September 2017 in response thereto, wherein the Agency offered a wholly inadequate, so-called “apology” to motorists who had been sent SMS messages in what it terms to be a “communication error which has since been rectified”.

What is most notable about this media statement is that it refers specifically and solely to SMS communications sent by Syntell (Pty) Ltd on behalf of the RTIA for newly issued infringement notices in an apparent attempt to add a positive spin to the situation. Nowhere in that statement does the RTIA make any similar apology with respect to the emails sent citing JMPD fines alone and revealing extremely sensitive, private, privileged and personal information in those emails.

JPSA began receiving numerous complaints from concerned motorists almost immediately on 21 September when the emails were first sent out and has already received a complaint from a gentleman in Pretoria who has been emailed the “outstanding infringements” pertaining to another person whom is not known to him. The relevant email reveals that person’s names, national identity number and 30 of the 34 alleged infringements, with the number plate of the offending vehicles emblazoned in it.

Despite the fact that the gentleman who received this email is not in the least bit interested in the private personal information of the person the email was supposed to reach, the unencrypted public display of that person’s private, personal information represents a serious and arguably, unlawful invasion of his/her privacy and could quite easily enable and/or promote identity theft.

“This glaringly obvious attempt by the RTIA to obfuscate and/or side-step the real issues surrounding these so-called ‘communication errors’ quite simply does not cut the mustard, nor does it even come anywhere close to explaining why the payment of ‘stagnated’ fines issued by the JMPD only, dating back as far as five years ago was solicited,” said JPSA’s chairperson, Howard Dembovsky.

JPSA has written to the Registrar of the RTIA to express its dissatisfaction with the RTIA’s so-called “apology” with respect to a far less serious issue and to get answers on the truly serious issues which surround this matter. We await the Registrar’s response.

Please note that the personal particulars of affected persons have been redacted from the document published here since JPSA does respect the privacy of individuals.

Media Release: Recent SMS messages and emails masquerading as being from the RTIA

Recently, a private company called Syntell (Pty) Ltd which contracts its services to numerous traffic authorities around South Africa has embarked on SMS and email campaigns which purport to originate from the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (“RTIA”) seeking to rake in monies applicable to “stagnated” traffic fines issued by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (“JMPD”).

Syntell previously did similar with traffic fines issued by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (“EMPD”) in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, against which a national directive from the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions ordering the withdrawal of stagnated matters exists.

In the latest email campaign sent from “RTIA@trafficnotification.co.za” recipients’ names, full national identity numbers and vehicle details, as well as a list of some of their outstanding AARTO infringement notices are displayed for all to see. In numerous instances, the fines listed therein date back some 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”.

As was held in the 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), the failure on the part of the authorities to comply with the provisions of the so-called “adjudication procedure” prescribed in Chapter III of the AARTO Act not only constitutes a legally valid defence, but also has the effect of rendering infringement notices which have not followed the prescribed processes as being “stagnated” and incapable of proceeding any further.

This judgment did not however have the effect of causing or ordering the RTIA to withdraw/cancel any stagnated AARTO infringement notices other than those which were cited in that review matter, despite having the effect of providing all similar accused persons with the same defence – that the authorities have not followed the prescribed processes.

As is the usual behaviour of the RTIA, it appears to be waiting for alleged infringers to make written representations to it in order have these stagnated fines withdrawn/cancelled, in the apparent hope that less informed motorists will pay these stagnated fines. It adopted exactly the same tactic in the previous matter where the JMPD acted unlawfully – until the JMPD and the RTIA found themselves being threatened with litigation if they did not administratively cancel all of the outstanding unlawful fines the JMPD had issued.

Furthermore, the RTIA now appears to again be favouring the JMPD by allowing the RTIA’s logo and motto to be emblazoned on emails sent by Syntell, referencing infringement notices issued by the JMPD only, while three other issuing authorities also issue AARTO infringement notices and have a stake in the collection of fines.

Nevertheless, from what we have been able to determine thus far, most if not all of the infringement notices referred to in these emails have stagnated and therefore, the threat which repeatedly appears in these emails stating that “*You will not be able to renew your vehicle or driving license whilst an Enforcement Order is outstanding” is, whilst not patently untrue, not only extortive in nature, but is an empty threat since no enforcement order may be lawfully issued on an arbitrary basis.

Sadly however, there appears to be no limit to the lengths to which dishonest authorities and service providers are prepared to go in order to drive their revenues up. This will not change until such time as traffic law enforcement starts to focus on road safety and stops focussing on how much money all concerned can make from pretending to enforce the law.

NOTE: JPSA has published an in-depth advisory on this matter here.

Twenty-year sentence for road killer welcomed

JOHANNESBURG – The twenty-year sentence for three counts of culpable homicide, reckless driving and driving under the influence handed down by Magistrate Anand Maharaj to Mr Kriesen Moodley in the Durban Regional Court recently is welcomed by Justice Project South Africa.

This case proves beyond any reasonable doubt that when judicial officers are presented with properly prosecuted cases, sound convictions can result and the interests of the victims and their families, as well as those of society at large can be properly taken into account in sentencing.

Unlike where people who engage in dangerous road practices end up killing innocent road users are incorrectly prosecuted for murder, the likelihood of appealing the conviction and sentencing succeeding in this case is remote.

JPSA asserts that had the same approach have been adopted in other, high profile cases of a similar nature, the perpetrators would not have gotten off the hook as easily as they did.

The unacceptably high road carnage situation which plays itself out on South Africa’s roads on a daily basis most definitely needs to be addressed and at least part of the solution must necessarily lie in sending strong deterrent messages to those who seem to believe that killing people as a result of engaging in dangerous driving practices is a trivial affair.

This case also has the effect of proving that there is no need to seek to dispose of a person’s constitutional rights ahead of their conviction, as has been repeatedly mooted by the RTMC and the Minister of Transport. All that is required is that cases are properly prosecuted and judicial officers are provided with sufficient evidence in order to convict guilty people and sentence them accordingly.

Increased physical and visible law enforcement also has a vital role to play and would undoubtedly lead to a reduction in dangerous driving practices, and as a result, the needless losses of life and causing of unnecessary suffering, which then necessitates “harsh sentences” arising out of the unlawful killing of people on our roads.

Footnote:

Whilst we are aware that the case for driving whilst the concentration of a blood alcohol sample was not less than 0,05g/100ml, which is a physically separate charge to “driving under the influence of intoxication liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect” was not proven due to what would appear to be the bungling of that element of the case, the fact still remains that this man was convicted of three counts of culpable homicide and the sentences therefor were consecutive – not concurrent. The three year sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol (“drunken driving”) formed only a small proportion of the overall sentence and is not reliant on “exceeding the alcohol limit”.

Passing of the AARTO Amendment Bill is more bad news for motorists

JOHANNESBURG – The passing of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (“AARTO”) Amendment Bill, 2015 (as amended by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Transport in August 2017) in the National Assembly this afternoon brings with it some pretty ominous provisions with serious implications for holders of driving licenses and/or owners of motor vehicles.

The Bill will now head to the National Council of Provinces for adoption, whereafter it will be signed into law by the President, amending the Act to further weight it in favour of driving traffic fine revenues for authorities, whilst leaving motorists virtually powerless to defend themselves. The amendments also pave the way for the national rollout of the AARTO Act and the implementation of the points-demerit system.

Amongst the amendments are the complete removal of the courts from the AARTO process, replacing them with a compulsion to make written representations to the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (formerly Agency) which is a State Owned Enterprise, funded almost entirely by traffic fine revenues (95.47% of its 2015/16 annual revenue) and to appeal adverse decisions by the RTIA’s representations officers to a newly created Tribunal.

Applications for appeal/review made to that Tribunal must be made within 30 days of the adverse decision and must be accompanied by the payment of a fee yet to be prescribed by the Minister of Transport.

Failure to exercise any of one’s so-called “elective options” within the prescribed timeframe will speedily lead to the issue of an enforcement order which blocks the issuing of a driving licence [card], a professional driving permit, any permit or licence issued in terms of any road traffic legislation or transport legislation and/or the issue of a vehicle licence disc, along with the imposition of demerit-points on the alleged infringer’s driving licence or operator card.

In addition, demerit-points will now be applied against the driving licenses of proxies for juristic entities (companies, etc.) which are registered owners of motor vehicles – in relation to infringements committed by other people who drive those vehicles. The actual drivers who commit such infringements will be able to evade the points-demerit system, by simply driving vehicles registered to juristic entities.

“I am not even remotely convinced that this ‘end justifies the means’ approach to road traffic violations is the way to go,” said Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of JPSA. “Clearly delinquent drivers must be taken to task for their transgressions and suspending the driving licenses of habitual offenders may assist in that regard. However, the more the AARTO Act is tampered with, the more it focusses the disposal of what are seen to be ‘bothersome provisions’ of law which stand in the way of the revenue generation process and the less it focusses on road safety. This travesty simply cannot go unchallenged,” he concluded.

Pretoria Minibus Taxi Protest Action is Misguided

JOHANNESBURG – The mass action by minibus taxi drivers in Tshwane which played itself out on Wednesday 16 August 2017 is both unfortunate and misguided; and appears to highlight just how little people know about the AARTO Act which has been in force in Tshwane for more than nine years now says Justice Project South Africa (JPSA).

It has been reported that minibus “taxi drivers embarked on illegal protest action in Tshwane on Wednesday morning, blocking several roads and railway lines and pelting passing cars with rocks” and are to hand a memorandum to the Mayor of Tshwane “complaining about law enforcement handing them tickets which prevent them from renewing their licenses” and/or professional driving permits.

An infringement notice issued in terms of the AARTO Act is subject to the so-called “adjudication procedure” which is prescribed in Chapter III of the AARTO Act which in turn caters for a “courtesy letter” and an “enforcement order” after prescribed periods after the service of an infringement notice have lapsed.

Enforcement orders issued in terms of the AARTO Act are not the equivalent of a warrant of arrest. They do however block the issuing of a motor vehicle licence disc, a driving licence card and/or a professional driving permit. The Cities of Tshwane and Johannesburg have no say in which specific infringement notices become enforcement orders and these enforcement orders can only be issued by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). Over the past few years, the RTIA has been issuing increased volumes of enforcement orders and in the 2015/16 financial year, 640,169 enforcement orders were issued.

It is important to note that an enforcement order is issued in the complete absence of any trial since the AARTO Act does not interest itself with whether a person who is accused of a road traffic infringement is guilty or not. All it concerns itself with is administrative procedures. JPSA has repeatedly raised this issue with the highest levels within the Department of Transport, only to be vilified by them.

Regrettably, whilst the taxi drivers in question who are, to all intents and purposes, professional drivers may well have a legitimate gripe regarding enforcement orders being issued against their particulars in the absence of any trial, attacking members of the public and motorists, as well as causing mayhem in the two Cities in which the AARTO Act applies is not the right way to go and merely serves to increase the divide between taxi drivers and other motorists. Furthermore, the concept that traffic fines issued to minibus taxi drivers should be treated any differently to those issued to ordinary motorists is nonsensical and whomever it is who is allegedly negotiating special fine discounts for minibus taxi drivers should stop acting unlawfully since the AARTO Act does not cater for this.

RTIA’s leave to appeal dismissed

JOHANNESBURG – Judge Bill Prinsloo this morning dismissed the Road Traffic Infringement Agency’s (RTIA’s) application for leave to appeal his earlier judgment which had ruled the RTIA had acted unlawfully in its handling of numerous traffic fines.  The RTIA was also ordered to pay the costs of the application.

In his judgment, Prinsloo said there was no reasonable prospect that another court would come to a different conclusion. In its original arguments, the RTIA said that the issue only affected those who originally brought the case. However, in applying for leave to appeal, the case was described as having national importance. Prinsloo’s judgment said: “…the apparent change of stance  by the fourth respondent [the RTIA] is difficult to understand or, with respect, take seriously”. The judgment ends a protracted battle between Fines 4 U (Pty) Ltd (a member of JPSA), Audi Johannesburg and the RTIA which started in 2013. Although the RTIA has the option to petition the Supreme Court of Appeals, it is highly unlikely that the SCA will find any differently and JPSA urged the RTIA to stop wasting taxpayers’ money trying to defend the indefensible. Continue reading

Easter 2017 road carnage horrific, but not unexpected

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa has noted with sincere regret but little surprise; the horrific 51% increase in this year’s Easter Road fatalities reported by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi this morning. This comes after announcements by the RTMC just before the Easter long weekend where it asserted that it had targeted a 50% decrease in fatalities over last year.

Regrettably, it has once again been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that road safety is not a light switch that can be turned on an off, yet it is clear that the Department of Transport, RTMC and all road traffic law enforcement authorities continue to choose to ignore this fact and, instead of consistently and visibly enforcing moving violations all year round, continue to put on “shows of strength” during holiday periods, which methodology has repeatedly proven itself to be ineffective. Continue reading

Conviction and sentencing of Tony Yengeni raises serious questions over DUI

JOHANNESBURG –

Justice project South Africa notes the judgment handed down in a Western Cape Magistrates’ Court on Friday whereat Mr Tony Yengeni was convicted of the offence of driving under the influence of intoxicated liquor (drunken driving) and sentenced to a R30,000 fine or 90 days imprisonment, half of which was suspended for five years, which conviction arose from his arrest for the offence more than three and a half years ago. He now has to pay a fine of R15,000. Continue reading

JPSA submits its comments on the AARTO Amendment Bill to the Transport Portfolio Committee

JOHANNESBURG –

On 22 February 2017, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport contacted JPSA and ten other such interested parties by email, attaching a newspaper advert which had apparently been published in the weekend newspapers calling for further comment on proposed amendments to the AARTO Act.

JPSA’s full submission to the Committee can be found here. Even though the submissions period has already closed on 10 March, it is concerning to us that the Committee’s list of proposed amendments, entitled “AARTO A List 10-02-2017” no longer appears on Parliament’s website, meaning citizens can no longer scrutinise the proposals. Continue reading