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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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