Transport Laws Repeal Bill [B19-2010]: Public hearings and voting

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06 September 2010
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee had earlier received a briefing from the Department of Transport on the Transport Laws Repeal Bill (the Bill), which was a bill of a technical nature that purported to remove outdated or inconsistent legislation from the statute books. Public comments had been invited, and the Committee heard from a private citizen, Mr B Ngobese, Transnet and the Department of Transport.

Mr Ngobese presented his opinions on the state of road systems in South Africa and presented some options to improve the flow of traffic. He noted that the 1996 legislation, which was still in force, was now outdated because it had been overtaken by transport infrastructure, faster cars, the increased traffic and longer traveling times that led to more fatigue-related accidents. He argued that increasing the speed limits would improve traffic flow, and suggested that multi-lane highways could even have staggered speed limits for the different lanes. He also said that speed cameras should be able also to evaluate the drivers’ ability and roadworthiness of vehicles. Members noted that Mr Ngobese’s submissions, while they were interesting, did not relate directly to this Bill, because the Bill was not seeking to amend or repeal the 1996 legislation. A Member also commented that reckless driving could still continue, and that the circumstances of accidents were difficult to address through legislation. Mr Ngobese was asked whether he was relying on specific statistics. Members agreed that his submission would be considered in another context, although it was not relevant to this Bill.

Transnet submitted that four Acts of Parliament which this Bill sought to repeal should be removed from this Bill, as all would have fallen away, in terms of their limited 50-year lifespan, by 2016. These Acts related directly to agreements entered into in the early 1960s between the then-government and private companies in regard to the building and maintenance of railway lines. When the railways eventually came under control of Transnet, there were difficult property legal issues to be sorted out. It would be more efficient simply to allow the Acts and the agreements to run their course. Members asked whether removing the references to these Acts being repealed from the Bill could create any loopholes, and asked for comment from the Department of Transport. The Department of Transport said it had been persuaded that these Acts should not be dealt with under this Bill, and it would be assisted in the correct re-drafting by Transnet. Members agreed that the references to those four Acts could be removed immediately.

Members then voted to adopt the Bill, as amended in the meeting.

Meeting report

Transport Laws Repeal Bill: Public hearings
Mr B Ngobese Submission
Mr B Ngobese presented his submission in his capacity as a citizen of the country. He gave his opinions on the state of the road systems in South Africa, and offered some possible solutions to improve the flow of traffic. He drew attention to the fact that the transport infrastructure of the country had vastly improved since 1996, when the current traffic legislation had come into effect. He argued that this should facilitate a re-examination of the traffic laws in South Africa.

Mr Ngobese submitted that the 1996 Act failed to take into account the increase of road traffic, the fact that many more drivers were relatively inexperienced, the fact that vehicles today were far more powerful than in 1996, and the fact that increased traffic and congestion led to longer travelling times, which in turn increased the instances of fatigue related accidents.

Mr Ngobese argued that increasing the speed limit would allow greater flow of traffic, specifically allowing vehicles to overtake more easily. He argued that allowing a speed limit of up to 160 km per hour would serve to create a free-flowing traffic situation. He added that staggering the speed limits on the road, such as having a three lane freeway, having a speed limit of 120km per hour in the left hand lane, a limit of 140km per hour in the centre lane, and a limit of 160km per hour in the right hand lane would also help to improve traffic flow. He concluded that the use of speed cameras for enforcing these laws should also include an evaluation of the driver’s ability, as well as the cars roadworthiness.

Ms N Ngele (ANC) commented that despite the fact that the transport and road networks of South Africa had developed significantly, there were still instances of reckless driving shown by truck drivers and others. She thought that often the specific circumstances giving rise to accidents were the result of chance happenings, and that it was difficult to address these through legislation.

Mr S Farrow (DA) commented that the current Bill did not make mention of the 1996 Act to which Mr Ngobese had referred. This submission, because it did not relate to the Bill directly, could therefore not affect the Committee’s deliberations on the Bill, but the points raised in the submission should be considered separately.

Mr Farrow asked what statistics Mr Ngobese was drawing on, to support his argument for a higher speed limit. His own understanding was that high speeds were dangerous, if not lethal, and imposition of lower speed limits were linked to a decline in accident rates. However, this was his opinion, and he was not necessarily an expert on the matter.

Mr Ngobese answered that he did not have any statistics to present to the Committee, but did agree that in the past, lower speed limits had resulted in lower accident rates. He was not trying to encourage reckless driving, but his emphasis was rather on trying to create greater freedom and flow of traffic throughout the country.

The Chairperson commented that the fact that Mr Ngobese had brought his comments to the Committee reflected a good public participation process. Even though Mr Ngobese did not have statistics to support his argument, his input was still valuable, as he was able to draw upon his experiential and participatory learning, and this input must be considered. Although his submission did not deal directly with the Bill under discussion today, his input would certainly be debated in the future.

Mr M De Freitas (DA) agreed with the Chairperson that this submission should be considered separately.

Transnet Submission
Mr Vuyo Kahla, Group Executive, Transnet, thanked the Committee for hearing the Transnet submission, although it had regrettably been submitted late. He said that the submission hinged on technical matters, and had been compiled after discussions with the Department of Transport (DoT).

Dr Petra Bouwer, Chief Specialist: Regulatory Analysis, Transnet, continued the presentation, stating that the Transnet submission dealt specifically with four Acts of Parliament passed in the early 1960s, which had dealt with agreements between the government of the day and certain private companies regarding the building and maintenance of different railway lines. This initially had allowed the railways to be built very quickly, but when the railways eventually came under the control of Transnet, these agreements became somewhat problematic.

Dr Bouwer said that Transnet was asking for these Acts to be removed from the Transport Laws Repeal Bill (the Bill), as they were in any even to lapse after 50 years, which meant that they would all have lapsed by 2016. It would be far more efficient simply to allow them to run their course, rather than have them specifically included in this Bill. The four Acts were the Railway Construction Act No 57 of 1961, the Second Railway Construction Act No 58 of 1963, the Railway Construction Act No 5 of 1965, and the Railway Construction Act No 17 of 1966.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked how the Acts mentioned in the Transnet presentation were going to be repealed, and whether taking them out of this Bill would not pose any danger of there being loopholes in the law.
Dr Bouwer replied that Transnet would assist the Department of Transport with the deletion of these entries from the Bill. Some of the complexities in the past had been linked to the difficulties in tracing back legal rights over the years.

Mr de Freitas asked for the response of the Department of Transport. He thought that the Department may not agree with the submission from Transnet.

Adv Adam Masombuka, Acting Chief Director: Legislation, Department of Transport, answered that the Department had met with Transnet that morning, and had been persuaded that although some attention was needed to these Acts, they could safely be removed from the Bill. He added that any agreements would remain valid for the original 50 years, whether or not the legislation was repealed.

Mr Farrow asked whether the references to those four Acts could be settled at this meeting, or whether this would need to be done later.

The Chairperson asked the representatives of the main political parties who were present at the meeting to indicate whether they would be in favour of this.

Mr J Maake (ANC) answered that the ANC agreed with the removal of the acts.

Mr P Poho (COPE) agreed that his party would not have any problem with this.

Mr S Farrow (DA) moved formally to have all references to the repeal of these four Acts, as outlined by Transnet, removed from the Bill.

Ms Ngwenya–Mabila seconded the proposal.

Members voted to adopt the Repeal Bill, with these amendments.
The meeting was adjourned


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