RTIA’s leave to appeal dismissed

JOHANNESBURG – Judge Bill Prinsloo this morning dismissed in the Pretoria High Court, 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.

“If the RTIA simply complied with the prescripts of the AARTO Act, matters like this can be avoided entirely,” said Howard Dembovsky, National Chairman of JPSA. “Instead, it has adopted an attitude of 'the end justifies the means' from the outset of the current experimental implementation of the AARTO Act in the jurisdictions of the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane. “

The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) has done similar, as was demonstrated in the December 2014 report of the Public Protector entitled 'a matter of interpretation' which found the City of Johannesburg and the JMPD had flouted the AARTO Act and, as a result,  engaged in maladministration from 1 April 2010 to 22 December 2012.

“JPSA congratulates Fines 4 U and Audi Johannesburg for having the moral fortitude to stand up to the unlawful bullying tactics of the RTIA and going the distance in bringing this matter to its logical conclusion,” Dembovsky added.

“The sooner that the RTIA and all of the traffic law enforcement authorities in South Africa come to the realisation that traffic fines cannot be used to drive revenue budgets and must be compliant with the prescripts of the law, the better off we will all be,” he concluded.

Inconsistencies in Easter 2017 road carnage "spin"

JOHANNESBURG – When the Minister of Transport, Joe Maswanganyi announced the 2017 Easter road fatality statistics on Friday 21 April, reference was made to the dramatic peak in fatalities which occurred in 2015 in order to pad the blow of this year’s 235 immediate fatalities, and wherein it was claimed by the Minister that “this year’s fatalities are still significantly lower than the 333 fatalities recorded in 2015”.

On 8 April 2015, the former Transport Minister, Ms Dipuo Peters said “the total crashes for the period under review is 208 resulting in 287 fatalities as opposed to the previous year during the same period when we had 148 crashes resulting in 193 fatalities”.

Just where the 16% (46) additional fatalities in 2015 Minister Maswanganyi refers to have come from is unclear, but presumably he is comparing finalised road fatality figures to the preliminary figures the current briefing and all such preliminary statistics briefings refer to.

This was not the only inconsistency contained in the Minister’s briefing. When referring to the cost of crashes to government, the Minister said “If all road users prioritise road safety, the resources that government spends unwittingly on accidents amounting 147 Billion Rands annually, which is equal to 3.4% of the country’s GDP” and “Over and above this figure the Road Accident Fund spends R33 Billion annually on payments of claims, which could be redirected to other government priorities which will go miles to address the triple challenges of employment, poverty and inequalities, thereby assisting us to increase the pace to achieve government radical socio-economic transformation”.

In September 2016, the CSIR published its report entitled the “cost of crashes in South Africa” which was commissioned by the RTMC and Department of Transport, wherein it was stated that the cost of road crashes to the economy in 2015 was R142.95 billion. This was not “the cost to government”, it was the cost to the economy and included private insurance claims, the socio-economic impact thereof, costs incurred in scene management, as well as claims payments made by the Road Accident Fund.

By the assertions of Minister Maswanganyi, not only was the study his own department commissioned the CSIR to conduct incorrect in its conclusions, but the actual cost of road crashes to government is R37 billion higher than the total cost to the economy.

Furthermore, the Minister has asserted that the occurrence of fatal crashes between “23h00 midnight (sic) until 05h00 in the morning” is a “new phenomenon [which] requires of us to spread our wings jointly informed by uniform working norms and standards”.

There is nothing “new” about this phenomenon and the Department of Transport and the RTMC have been bemoaning the fact that the lack of 24/7/365 traffic law enforcement on a national basis in South Africa. In 2015 Minister Peters said that the crashes which occurred in 2015 represented a departure from “the usual pattern of crashes happening between 22h00 and 06h00 when most of our law enforcers are not visible on the roads underpinned by the challenge of implementing law enforcement on a 24/7 basis”.

The question which must arise out of the contradictory information being disseminated by the various Ministers of Transport is “who is advising these Ministers?” There has been no change in the management at the RTMC since former Minister Peters appointed Advocate Makhosini Msibi, yet the RTMC and Department of Transport don’t appear to be able to keep their stories straight.

There is a huge difference between finalised road fatality figures and preliminary ones since finalised figures should follow a 30 day monitoring period for deaths which occur in hospital, as a result of road crashes. Finalised figures for the 2016 festive season have not yet been made public and will undoubtedly be higher than the 1,714 fatalities reported on 10 January 2017.

Similarly, there is a huge difference between the cost of road crashes to the economy and the direct costs incurred by government and whilst the Department of Transport is no stranger to grossly overstating the total cost of road crashes to the economy, even in the face of studies it commissions, it serves no purpose to artificially inflate the actual cost thereof by claiming that the government incurs somewhere in the order of R176 billion in costs arising therefrom.

Lastly, if the Minister is informed that it is in any way unusual for fatal crashes to occur during the hours of darkness when traffic authorities are sleeping, then it should be clear to anyone that he is severely misinformed.

This year’s Easter road fatalities represents an unmitigated catastrophe and trying to place spin on it in order to lessen the blow is both, disingenuous and extremely telling of the Department of Transport and RTMC’s complete failure to take ownership of the problem.

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. 

The assertion by Minister Maswanganyi that “South Africa is not a Police State and therefore cannot deploy traffic officers everywhere” is simply nonsensical, more especially in light of the fact that it is a worldwide phenomenon that road users will behave as badly as the authorities allow them to behave and each time that a road user “gets away” with disobeying the rules of the road and other provisions of traffic law, the habitual nature of this negative behaviour is strengthened. 

Interestingly however, the Minister and RTMC choose to assert in the same breath that persons accused of serious road traffic offences should be denied police bail through scheduling (not rescheduling as asserted) such offences as Schedule 5 offences in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act. 

Until such time as road traffic law enforcement becomes about road safety and not generating revenue, nothing can be reasonably expected to change and denying accused persons police bail is not the answer. Proper, effective prosecution and consequences upon conviction is. Furthermore, such convictions should not take years to achieve since justice needs to be swift and seen to be done in order to begin to address the situation and have the effect of acting as an effective deterrent to other would-be offenders.