Why let the truth get in the way of a ‘good story’?

Road Traffic Infringement Agency company secretary Mcedisi Bilikwana (left) and registrar Japh Chuwe (right). Photo: Keitumetse Maako

“The recently amended Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act is merely meant to promote road safety and nothing else, contrary to reports which allege it would bully motorists into paying their e-toll bills”.

So said the Road traffic Infringement Agency’s (RTIA’s) Registrar, Japhtha (Japh) Chuwe at a media briefing held by the National Press Club in Pretoria, on 19 September 2019.

He reportedly went on to say that the “new” law was not intended for the alleged purpose and that “this misleading information is disingenuous.”

To lend weight to his musings, Chuwe referred to the publication for comment of draft amended regulations to the AARTO Regulations, published in Government Gazette 39482 of 7 December 2015. As he correctly pointed out, therein it was proposed that the single demerit-point applicable to drivers of vehicles for which a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP) is required be removed, but the R500 penalty remain.

That amendment has still not been enacted, almost four years after it was published for public comment.

Propaganda

It is a widely acknowledged fact that all good propaganda has a foundation in truth. Get a charming, eloquent individual to convey that propaganda, and you can almost certainly convince many people that the world is flat.

There’s no denying that Chuwe is a charming and  eloquent individual. He comes across as extremely knowledgeable and genuine, and is an exceptionally talented spin doctor.

However, what Mr Chuwe fails to mention is that the identical Government Gazette also proposed a new AARTO infringement notice form.

The form that proves that the AARTO Act IS about enforcing e-tolls compliance

Called the AARTO 03e “infringement notice [in respect of] multiple camera or electronically captured infringements”, this form seeks to incorporate twenty-five such infringements on a single infringement notice, as opposed to one infringement per notice number. There are many flaws with this ill-conceived idea. Not least of these is that if one wishes to make a representation or nominate a driver for a single infringement, there is no way to do so.

AARTO 03e infringement notice [in respect of] multiple camera or electronically captured infringements.

The relative newcomers to the block in respect of the AARTO Act, OUTA, who have not only publicly stated their intention to challenge the AARTO Amendment Act, but also had quite a lot to say about the timing of that Gazette at that time, have failed to counter Chuwe’s patently untruthful allegations.

That being what it may, one must ask just who is being “disingenuous”. Is it those who have said that AARTO and e-tolls go hand in hand, or is it Mr Chuwe?

The future of e-tolls

On 6 July 2019, President Ramaphosa announced that he had mandated the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula working with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Gauteng Premier David Makhura to submit to Cabinet a solution to the impasse around e-tolling on Gauteng freeways, to bring an end to the e-tolls catastrophe. “The President has called on the Ministers and Premier to table proposals to Cabinet by the end of August 2019,” the statement read.

On Wednesday 28 August, Mbalula met with OUTA and the AA, only for the SA Government news service to announce on Saturday 31 August that the so-called “deadline” had been extended “to allow for thorough consultation with organs of civil society, labour and business”.

Five weeks later, on 4 October, he met with NEDLAC and COSATU.

Considering the initial e-tolls solution deadline set by the President, it’s hard not to wonder Minister Mbalula waited until the eleventh hour to commence consultation with some organs of civil society, and then a further six weeks after it to meet with others, business and labour. What’s more, it’s hard not to wonder what may have possibly changed in the stance of organs of civil society, labour and business since Gauteng Premier, David Makhura convened his so-called “e-tolls review panel” more than five years ago, in 2014.

Announcement expected

According to MoneyWeb, President Ramaphosa is expected to make an announcement in respect of the commencement of the AARTO Amendment Act on Saturday 5 October 2019.

Let’s wait and see what is announced.