National Road Traffic Amendment Bill: deliberations; Committee strategic & annual performance plan

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25 January 2022
Chairperson: Mr M Zwane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee reviewed its strategic plan and annual performance plan for 2022/23, arising from which it discussed the need:

  • to arrange joint meetings with Committees whose mandates overlapped with, or were adjacent to, transport;
  • to give attention to bus rapid transit systems in Rustenburg and Bloemfontein;
  • to monitor the use of Provincial Road Maintenance Grants;
  • to address the issue of access to public transport by people with disabilities, and;
  • to prioritise in-person oversight visits.

The Committee continued clause-by-clause deliberations on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill. Clause 47, which would remove the requirement for the Minister to consult with the Shareholders' Committee when making regulations, as well as the requirement to refer draft regulations to Parliament before promulgation, was strongly opposed. Members sought clarity on the roles of the Minister and provincial transport authorities in clause 50, which dealt with exemptions granted to abnormal vehicles and loads, and in clause 51, which would bring the principal Act up to date with the current card licence system. They observed a worrying trend of attempting to give the Minister more and more direct power.

The Committee considered its first-term 2022/23 programme. An invitation to a joint meeting on 8 February 2022 with the Standing Committee on Appropriations to discuss the termination of the integrated public transport system funding to some municipalities was considered. The secretariat reported on the advertisement of bills currently under consideration by the Committee. Outstanding minutes were adopted.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed Members of the Committee and officials present and accepted apologies from Ms M Ramadwa (ANC), Mr J Bilankulu (ANC), Mr K Sithole (IFP), and the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula.

Mr C Hunsinger (DA) asked about the prospects for resuming in-person meetings, in light of the fire at the Parliament buildings.

Ms Valerie Carelse, Committee Secretary, replied that office space for Members of Parliament affected by the fire was currently being prioritised. The Committee would have to wait for information about the availability of meeting spaces.

Mr L Mangcu (ANC) felt that the Committee always seemed to find reasons not to undertake oversight. It should put in an application for dates, rather than wait to be assigned dates.

The Chairperson noted this.

Review of Committee's draft strategic and annual performance plans

Adv Alma Nel, Committee Content Advisor, presented the Committee's draft strategic plan, highlighting areas that required input from Members.

Mr I Seitlholo (DA) said that the bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in Rustenburg and Bloemfontein should be noted as a specific concern.

Ms N Nolutshungu (EFF) said that the strategic plan should indicate the Committee’s achievements of the previous year. It was pointless to go on setting goals without looking at what was actually achieved.

Adv Nel commented that there had been very little substantive engagement with some Department of Transport (DoT) entities where concerns had been identified. These included the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa (PRASA), the Road Accident Fund (RAF) and the Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA).

Mr Hunsinger recalled that he had made a strong case for having joint Portfolio Committee meetings in order to coordinate with departments whose mandates overlapped with the mandate of the DoT. This had not really happened. He shared Mr Mangcu’s concern that reasons were always given for why things could not be done. Political leadership was lacking. The Committee seemed to be driven by compliance rather than solutions. The programme was cluttered with responsibilities related to legislative design at the expense of oversight.

Adv Nel summarised what the Committee had sought to achieve in the previous two financial years and what it would seek to achieve in 2022/23 and 2023/24. She noted the ongoing technical problems with the driving licence card printing machine, and reminded Members that she had sent them the first part of the Zondo Commission Report, which contained a specific recommendation related to the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA).

The Chairperson said that he would prefer the strategic plan to indicate what the Committee had actually achieved and where it had progressed, rather than what it had sought to achieve.

Mr T Mabhena (DA) asked that the Committee monitor the use of Provincial Road Maintenance Grants (PRMGs). Some provincial roads were in a critical condition, and the public was dissatisfied. Oversight visits should incorporate visits to provincial transport or public works authorities. Provinces should be asked for quarterly reports and the Committee should follow up on these. The DoT needed to provide more clarity on the future of the R573 Moloto Road developments, in particular whether it would include a rail component. The Rail Safety Regulator (RSR) should also be asked for quarterly reports in light of the recent Blue Train derailments.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Mabhena’s suggestions. The RSR should be obliged to provide the Committee with incident reports.

Mr M Chabangu (EFF) insisted that oversight visits should result in consequences where performance was lacking. He also wondered when the problems with the driving licence card printing machine would be resolved, and why South Africa could not produce its own card printing machine.

Mr P Mey (FF+) reported that renovations at the driving licence testing centre (DLTC) at Joubertina had finally begun after it been closed for an entire year. He agreed with other Members that the Committee should give greater priority to oversight, adding that management should be held responsible where officials did not have the equipment they needed to do their jobs.

Ms Nolutshungu said that the issue of universal access to public transport was being neglected, particularly for people with disabilities. She understood that it was expensive, but why was Cape Town the only place that offered transport for people with disabilities?

Adv Nel presented the Committee’s oversight focus areas and priorities for Members’ input.

Mr Mangcu said that oversight of DLTCs and vehicle testing stations (VTSs) should be prioritised, along with the DLCA and its production problems, inefficient use of operational grants for bus services by some provinces, as well as the worst-performing municipalities receiving grants for BRTs, and PRMG spending alongside the Moloto corridor. He added that he had noticed a deterioration of facilities at some airports.

Mr Seitlholo said that the Committee should obsess about projects fingered by the Zondo Commission Report. He drew particular attention to the closure of Mahikeng Airport amid corruption by officials and politicians.

Mr Mabhena said that the Committee should respond to issues raised by communities as a matter of principle.

Adv Nel looked at proposed international study tours and oversight visits.

Mr Hunsinger was very doubtful whether any international study tours or oversight visits would be approved. and wondered whether there was any point in including them in the strategic plan.

The Chairperson maintained that they should be included. The Committee should allow for things to improve.

Adv Nel summarised the Committee’s key strategic objectives and tables of action.

The Chairperson asked how much time had been allocated for oversight visits.

Ms Carelse replied that time for oversight had been set aside for 29 March to 1 April, for 19 to 22 April, and the second week of August.

Mr Mangcu suggested that visits to the Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and the Moloto corridor should be prioritised.

Mr Mey supported the call for a visit to the Eastern Cape.

Mr Mabhena did not think that enough time had been allocated to oversight. Could the Committee not use weekends in addition to the working days that had been allocated?

The Chairperson noted the concern, but pointed out that the 12 days allocated were just for the first two terms, and more time would be available in the third term. He suggested that visits to PRASA and the Road Accident Fund (RAF) could be combined with a visit to the Moloto Corridor, and that the Committee should also visit the North West Province.

Mr L McDonald (ANC) suggested that if the Committee visited Rustenburg, it should also visit the nearby border post.

Adv Nel went through the annual performance plan (APP), indicating that she would incorporate corresponding changes in response to Members’ input on the strategic plan.

The Committee adopted the APP and strategic plan with the changes discussed.

Deliberations on National Road Transport Amendment (NRTA) Bill

Clause 47, amending section 75: Power of Minister to make regulations

Adv Nel recalled that there had been concerns that in the past, regulations were made but not enforced -- such as the regulations limiting driving hours for freight drivers. The removal of the requirement for the Minister to consult with the Shareholders' Committee had also been a concern of stakeholders as well as Portfolio Committee Members. She drew attention to the amendment to sub-section (6), which would remove the requirement for the Minister to refer draft regulations to Parliament before promulgating them.

Mr Mangcu observed that there were certain similarities between this clause and the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill, which had recently been declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it infringed on the rights of provincial and local government to administer traffic matters. The clause should not be accepted.

Mr Hunsinger shared Mr Mangcu’s objection the clause. The current section 75 adequately dealt with the separation of powers and the delegation of authority to provincial and local government, and the Committee would be risking further embarrassment in the courts if it attempted to amend section 75 as proposed in clause 47.

Clause 48, amending section 76: Incorporation of standards by reference

There was no discussion on this clause.

Clause 49, substituting section 80: Parking for disabled persons

The Committee accepted this clause, with a minor change suggested by Ms Alta Swanepoel.

Clause 50, substituting section 81: Vehicle and load may be exempted from the provisions of the Act

Adv Nel observed that this clause removed references to provincial Members of the Executive Committee (MECs) prescribing the fees payable for vehicles applying for exemptions in terms of section 81. She suggested that the DoT might also need to clarify the application procedure -- did an applicant apply first to the Minister, and then to an MEC? Could they apply to both concurrently? What would happen if the Minister granted approval and an MEC denied it due to prevailing road conditions?

Mr Hunsinger asked how the amendments in clause 50 changed or improved the existing situation in which a person who wanted to drive an oversized vehicle applied for permission from an MEC.

Adv Johannes Makgatho, Chief Director: Road Regulation, DoT, explained that the amendments were an attempt to harmonise the criteria for granting the exemptions, so that different provinces did not charge different fees.

Mr John Motsatsing, Director, DoT, added that the Minister handled the approval of vehicles, while MECs handled the approval of loads.

Mr Mangcu asked the Department to clarify how differences between the Minister and an MEC would be resolved.

Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, understood that sub-sections (1) and (2) aimed to create consistency across the country. Granting exemptions would be the prerogative of MECs as long as a vehicle operated within one province, but would become the Minister’s prerogative if a vehicle operated across a provincial border. Disputes could be handled in terms of Sections 146 and 147 of the Constitution.

Adv Nel observed that the principal Act provided for an MEC to determine the exemption fee. Clause 50 removed these provisions, and did not indicate who would be responsible for determining fees.

Mr Hunsinger was concerned that clause 50 was withdrawing prerogatives from provinces. He proposed that the Minister should be involved in cases only where a provincial border was crossed. It was also unclear who the exemption fee was payable to.

Mr Mangcu said that a bigger problem was emerging in the proposed amendments. Past failures of the Shareholders' Committee to reach agreements were leading the Department to try to amend legislation to give the Minister direct power. This was a dangerous path.

Clause 51, substituting section 85: Issue of document as proof of driving licence in special circumstances

Adv Nel observed that this clause sought to bring section 85 up to date with the current card licence system.

Mr Mangcu wondered why the clause made reference to ‘the Minister or the MEC,’ given that the issuing of licences was the prerogative of the MEC, not the Minister.

Mr Hunsinger agreed. References to the Minister in this clause could lead to confusion. The Minister should be approached only if an MEC had failed to process an application.

Clause 52, amending section 93A: Transitional provisions

There was no discussion of this clause.

Clause 53, amending the arrangement of sections

Mr Mangcu said that this clause should be looked at after the content of the substantive clauses had been finalised.

Draft first term Committee programme and consideration and adoption of minutes

The Chairperson reported that a request had been received from the Standing Committee on Appropriations (SCOA) for a joint meeting on 8 February, which would include briefings by the National Treasury and municipalities affected by the termination of integrated public transport system (IPTS) funds.

Ms Carelse noted that accepting this request would mean that the Committee would have to reschedule its briefing from the Minister of Transport.

Mr Hunsinger suggested that the Chairperson should accept the invitation and request a further meeting with the SCOA on the basis of National Treasury’s decision not to approve funding for the Moloto rail corridor.

Mr Mangcu seconded this suggestion. He also proposed that the Committee discuss its position on the IPTS funding issue before the joint meeting.

The Chairperson noted the decision to re-advertise the Economic Regulation of Transport (ERT) Bill, and to extend the period for comments on the Transport Appeal Tribunal Bill and the Railway Safety Bill.

Ms Carelse added that the call for comment on the ERT Bill had been advertised in print media, on the website and on social media. The extension of the period for the latter two Bills would be advertised only through social media, for reasons of economy.

Outstanding minutes were adopted, and the meeting was adjourned.


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