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PUBLIC SERVICE SELECT COMMITTEE
July 5 2003
NATIONAL ROAD TRAFFIC AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING BY THE DEPARTMENT
Documents handed out
National Road Traffic Amendment Bill (B31-2003)
The Committee was once more briefed on the Bill. Members had taken the Bill to provinces for negotiating mandates before the plenary debate scheduled for early September 2003. Mandates would be received on 20 August and discussions thereon take place between 21 and 22 August 2003.
The Committee had been briefed on the Bill before but a further briefing was necessary as there had been a time lapse. Members would proceed to their respective negotiating mandates the following week and that debate on the Bill would be taken forward in early September 2003. Some provinces had indicated that they would need to carry out public hearings before taking a position on the Bill. It would be necessary for the Committee to arrange for a meeting with the new Minister to hear her vision for affordable Housing to the nation. The Chair reminded members that the purpose of the current amendment was to cover a category of people that were left out of the existing mechanism and so could not convert their licenses accordingly.
Department Briefing by Head of Licensing
Ms Mangcu, Department, Head of Licensing, pointed out that the Department had to deal with many challenges since the inception of the new system of licensing. The Department had learnt many lessons from the process. It was due to these unanticipated challenges that the Department had decided to amend the law so as to put in place mechanisms and procedures to cater for those who, through extraordinary circumstances, came in for a late conversion. He gave an example of people who were serving jail terms and those working in foreign missions abroad as some of the targeted beneficiaries of the amendment.
Department Briefing by Legal officer
Mr. Tsholetsana, Department Legal Officer explained that the Bill emanated from the problems the Department has encountered during the first phase of implementation of the new licensing system. He noted that the amendment empowers the Minister to determine appropriate dates for various categories of persons who came for a late conversion. He added that the amendment also proposes to correct the apparent discrimination against people who though abroad were not part of the foreign mission. He gave the example of students and those who left before the law came into effect.
The Chair asked if the amendment seeks to cater for a section of drivers who were unable to convert due to various excusable handicaps.
Ms. Mangcu confirmed that what the Chair had said was the correct position as regards the amendment.
Mr. Windvoel (ANC) asked how the Department would deal with a situation where all public records had been destroyed through fire or some other natural calamities.
Ms Mangcu admitted that the issue of lost public records was a very disturbing one since it puts the Department in a critical dilemma. He noted that public records were necessary to confirm that one obtained a license at a particular place in a regular manner. He regretted that in the absence of such vital information it was unfortunate that an aggrieved party would find no redress. Accepting claims without a public record to verify their authenticity would be opening up avenues fraudulent claims.
Mr. Windvoel commented on people loosing their jobs due to a failure to convert their licenses and wondered whether the Department was aware of this unfortunate development.
Ms Mangcu said that the issue of people loosing jobs was very tricky for him to tackle due to the fact that various people were affected in different circumstances.
Mr. Sulliman (ANC) said that he was comfortable with the amendment but enquired if information about the new legislation was reaching the people on the ground especially in rural areas.
Ms. Mangcu replied that unlike in the first instance the Department had developed extensive communication networks mainly through local radio stations.
Mr. Raju (IFP) asked if the Department has made any provision for other nationals who sought permanent residence in the country.
Ms Mangcu said that people who acquire permanent residence in the country were given one year to acquire a South African driving license whereas those here on a temporary basis must produce valid home country driving licenses. With respect to SADC he said provision was made for a universal SADC drivers' license to be acceptable within the SADC region. He added that the Department was developing an international license that would be recognised outside South Africa.
Ms Thompson (ANC) enquired if unemployed people are exempted from paying fees.
Ms Mangcu replied that the issue whether or not to exempt unemployed people from paying traffic levies was within the provincial competence and that therefore he could not handle the query. Only MECs for transport had the competence to waiver fines and charges.
The Chair asked for the latest statistics for people who had converted so far given the fact that some people had died whilst others were aged.
Ms Mangcu said that to date a total of 794,639 people had converted noting that 442,814 people converted in the month of February which was the dateline as opposed to 143,011 who converted during the extension. The extension was a major disappointment to the Department.
Mr. Windvoel asked if the Department had an age limit for the elderly people to cease driving.
Ms Mangcu explained that the law provided that people aged 65 years and above must produce a medical certificate to prove their fitness every five years. He however pointed out that law enforcers were empowered to require one to undertake a re-testing where one was found to drive in a manner that endangered other road users.
The Chair expressed concern that in the former homelands many people had no records with which to use for purposes of converting to the new license system.
Ms Mangcu pointed out that quite a considerable number of people from the former homelands had converted to the new system.
Rev. Chabaku (ANC) asked about the fee charged for converting to the new license.
Ms Mangcu explained that every province had its own rate noting that the cheapest was the Eastern Cape and Limpopo at R100 each and the most expensive is the Gauteng at R122.
Rev. Chabaku asked why there was no uniform rate for the conversion fees.
Ms Mangcu explained that the mandate to set fees, penalties and other related charges was within the provincial competency and that he had no say in that regard.
The Chair pointed out that negotiating mandates should be received on 20 August and discussion of the same between 21 and 22 August in time for the plenary on 3 September 2003
The meeting was adjourned.
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