Department on Road Traffic Infringements: briefing

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08 June 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

8 June 2004

Mr J Cronin (ANC)

Document handed out:
Department Road Traffic Infringements presentation

The Department Deputy Director-General briefed the Committee on the current state of road traffic infringements. His presentation focused on the background to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Transport Offences Act (AARTO), progress made thus far on implementation, and a proposed way forward.

The Committee reviewed the role as well as the difficulties facing the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC). It was agreed that its role was to co-ordinate provincial and municipal traffic policing, but was not yet effective and had not been formally established. The Committee lauded some of the innovations developed by the Department such as Project E- Force for traffic safety surveillance, and the E-NATIS for the collection of fines for traffic offences. It was hoped that these initiatives would become fully operational following ratification by the new Minister of Transport.


Department presentation
Mr S Khumalo (Deputy Director General: Land Transport Management) briefed the Committee on the current state of road traffic infringements. His presentation focused on the background to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Transport Offences Act (AARTO), progress made thus far on implementation, and a proposed way forward.

The Chairperson noted that the previous Committee had expressed their concern over the proliferation of agencies, such as the Cross-border Road Traffic Agency, which seemed to have little sense of purpose. He further explained the role of three agencies, and said that they would each have to justify their existence.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) co-ordinated road traffic management and the enforcement of legislation. The Committee has passed their budget of R3 million for two years, but had seen no concrete effects. This year the RTMC has submitted a budget request of R8 million.

The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) dealt with the collection of fines and punishment of minor traffic offences. Repeat offenders received demerit points and if they lost enough points, their licences would be suspended for a while. The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) was responsible for running AARTO.

Mr R Ainslee (ANC) observed that the briefing indicated the problems relating to the administration of the Road Traffic Management Co-operation (RTMC), but did not state why the RTMC had not yet been formally established.

Mr Khumalo responded that the RTMC was a new legal entity and the Act had specified its mode of operation. His Department had done all it could to establish the RTMC by appointing a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) as well as a small support team to develop a business plan. The Committee had the right to demand an account of stewardship from that CEO. One of the main hindrances had been the transfer of functions as some staff were reluctant to let go of parts of their current roles. The Department's co-ordinating role was hampered by its lack of power to enforce legislation. With respect to governance, the Department of Road Traffic Infringement had no control over the shareholders committee who were absolutely responsible.

Mr S Farrow (DA) commented that the role of the Committee was to ensure that legislations passed by the Committee were enforced. He insisted that it would be meaningless to pass legislation without implementing them, and he added that if the Committee was unable to enforce what it legislated, this would lead to several problems.

Mr Khumalo noted that there had been many improvements with regards to law enforcement. This was as a result of an effective road safety strategy started four years ago. He regretted that as a national government, they had no influence over traffic officers as stipulated in the Constitution. The Department works in liaison with the provinces through a co-ordinating framework.

Mr G Schneemann (ANC) asked for an indication of timeframes for achieving programme objectives.

Mr Khumalo hoped that within the next two months, his Department would be able to inform the Committee of readiness to roll out the Road Traffic Infringement Act (RTIA). The new Minister had not yet had time to receive a detailed explanation of the Act. When this had been done, the Minister would provide the necessary policy directives and then the Department would inform the Committee of their strategy.

Mr L Montana (Department Manager) added that the Minister knew the challenges facing the RTMC and had expressed his resolve for a speedy establishment of the RTMC.

Mr Ainslee (ANC) expressed a need for public-private partnerships between the various agencies and Road Traffic Infringement. He wondered whether this partnership had already been established and who had been responsible.

Mr Khumalo responded that the Department had done some groundwork on a model for public-private partnerships. The Public Finance Management Act was in place but his Department was not mandated to form partnerships with any company to collect fines. He alternatively suggested the establishment of an agency to do that sort of work, depending on the availability of accountable officers.

Mr Ainslee (ANC) was frustrated that traffic fines did not reflect on the computer system, even though fines had been paid.

Mr Schneemann (ANC) commented that there was good roadblock co-ordination in Johannesburg and fines were recorded. For some reason, this were not taken seriously in other provinces and many traffic offenders did not pay their fines.

Mr Khumalo said that NATIS system did record traffic infringements. However, because NATIS had originally been built on a mainframe computer system, it had been difficult to introduce efficient innovations to the system. The current thinking was to move to the 'E-NATIS' that would allow for a wide range of innovations.

The Department had also introduced the 'CVD' - a device that allowed traffic officers to access NATIS on the spot.

Mr T Tsholetsane (Department Manager) commented that legislation was passed on 25 September 2003 that meant that from 1 June 2004, it would be legal to withhold traffic licenses from offenders owing fines. Project E-force would be developing a CVD for electronic generated documentation and fines.

Mr O Mogale (ANC) asked about the difference between the National Highway Patrol and the Project E-Force established in November 2003.

Mr Khumalo explained that the National Highway Patrol was one of the ideas initiated by Minister Omar. The Department had yet to discuss this with the new Minister. The National Highway Patrol could be established within the RTMC to run with law enforcement.

Ms W Watson (Department General Manager) also explained that Project E-force was the implementation of the CVD initiative. Traffic officers used the devices to scan licenses to check for any traffic offences. She agreed that the RTMC should be able to co-ordinate the National Highway Patrol as well as E-Force.

Mr Farrow (DA) noted that there was an apparent lack of co-ordination between provincial and the municipal metro traffic policing which had led to a gap in policing and accountability.

The Chairperson responded that the RTMC should be responsible for bridging the gap between the two divisions. The National Highway Patrol's role was not to co-ordinate such functions. Mr Khumalo concurred.

Ms Watson related that 12 000 lives had been lost in 2003 due to road accidents. Between 2001 and 2003, there had been a 3.5 - 4% annual increase in road accidents. However, 2004 had seen a remarkable decrease to about 1% in the first four months. She believed that part of the reason for this was the awareness campaign conducted by Arrive Alive.

Mr Schneemann (ANC) wondered why the Arrive Alive campaigns bloomed during holiday periods but withered away afterwards.

Ms Watson responded that Arrive Alive was a year-round campaign. However, it was not easy to maintain the same level of advertisement on TV all year round so they campaigned closer to holidays when the accident rate was higher.

Mr Mogale (ANC) observed that the Arrive Alive campaigns seemed to be more effective in some provinces, such as Kwazulu-Natal.

Ms Watson agreed that the Arrive Alive campaign was apparently more effective in Kwazulu-Natal, but each province had year-round campaigns.

Mr Schneemann (ANC) asked what programme had been put in place to change people's behaviour and to educate the public on road safety measures.

Ms Watson responded that people's behaviour was very difficult to control all over the world. She linked the high crime situation to the historical reality of South Africa. She warned that until motorists learned to take road crime seriously and became more considerate, and until the magistrates learnt to exact full justice over road crimes, people's behaviour would not change.

An issue was raised about animals loitering on the roads in the rural areas. Who was responsible for controlling these animals and how could this problem be curtailed?

Mr Khumalo concurred that the issue of stray animals was an ongoing challenge. In Limpopo, these animals were confiscated by traffic officers until their owners came to redeem them with fines. This arrangement had been effective but this 'pilot project' had yet to be expanded across the nation.

The Chairperson suggested that further discussions on this important subject take place during tomorrow's meeting. Immediately after passing the budget, the Committee should be able to produce a report expressing their concerns.

The meeting was adjourned.


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