The Committee convened to consider oral and written submissions on the amendment of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill and the National Land Transport Amendment Bill. The South African Medical Research Council, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and the South African Local Government Association made oral presentations.
On the National Traffic A/Bill, the Medical Research Council raised concern about the current acceptable blood alcohol level (BAC) and said it should be reduced to 0.02g/100 ml. Research has shown that reducing the levels has positively impacted the reduction of road fatalities related to drunk driving.
COSATU expressed its support for the progressive National Traffic A/Bill. The Congress said that it does not agree to the lobbying by industry fixated on profits of liquor sales at the expense of saving lives. It stated that a mass public education campaign is needed to ensure all officials and road users are aware of their legal obligations. Government must begin to take road safety seriously and also invest in the capacitation and resourcing of road traffic enforcement.
Members said that the 0.02 blood alcohol level should be supported. They, however, asked how one will differentiate between medication-induced alcohol levels and consumed-alcohol levels and their influence on testing. They asked if there have been any clinical trials on the effects of strong medication on blood alcohol levels.
SALGA raised concern on Section Seven of the National Land Transport A/Bill, saying that the section has been largely excluded from the Bill, as per the concerns of the President, the Association and the City of Cape Town (CoCT). However, both the Portfolio and Select Committee indicated that the Minister of Transport can still intervene in municipalities through Section 5(6) of the National Land Transport Act (NLTA). The Association is of the view that Section 5(6) of the Act is unconstitutional, as it allows for direct interventions by a Minister of Transport on municipal public transport which is an exclusive function.
The Chairperson stated that, on 14 June, the Committee would receive the Department’s response concerning both oral and written submissions.
Overview of Written Submissions on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill
Dr Anneke Clarke, Committee support staff, took Members through the briefing.
The Bill was passed by National Assembly and transmitted to the NCOP for concurrence, and then it was referred to the Select Committee on 27 September 2022. The Department of Transport briefed the Committee on the Bill on 15 March 2023. On 26 March 2023, an advert was placed in national media calling for written submissions on the Bill, with a deadline of 24 April 2023. The Committee would hear oral submissions on the Bill on 31 May 2023. The Department would then provide its response to oral and written submissions on 14 June 2023.
The Department received inputs from the general public via email, Amajuba Diving School Association (Newcastle, KZN), Western Cape Government Department of Mobility, South African Local Government Association, and the South African Driving School Operators Association.
From the email submissions, 76% did not support the Bill, 18% partially supported, and 6% fully supported the Bill.
The majority (38%) of the objections are due to clause 40 of the Bill (limitations of liability to those responding to disaster management). Objections were related to clauses one, seven, 10, 18, and 14.
The Bill will address several loopholes:
- It will introduce accountability on how driving schools operate;
- Predators who have the opportunity to cheat the public and force them by buying their drivers licences;
- Manufacturing these plates will reduce crime and contribute to job scarcity in the country as more people will be employed to produce number plates in factories.
- The category of spouse or partner is not the only relationship through which a financial interest can be obtained. The draft amendment should be broadened to include other persons known or connected to the examiner.
Clause 15 (Application for the registration of driving license testing centre):
- Given that only a provincial department responsible for transport or a municipality may operate a driving licence testing centre, clarity is sought on the future of driving licence testing centres that are intended to be operated by national state departments such as the South African Police Services and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). It is suggested that clarity be provided as to the rationale for not including national departments from applying for approval to operate a driving licence testing centre.
Clause 40 (Failure to obey road traffic sign prohibited):
“Any vehicle driven by person responding to a disaster as contemplated in the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) may disregard the directions of a road traffic sign which is displayed in the prescribed manner”
- There is a strong sense that this provision is open to potential abuse and creates a safety risk on roads. This will result in reckless driving, accidents and death.
- It may create a loophole for abuse by “blue light brigades” transporting Ministers and office bearers.
- The definition of disaster needs to be clear to avoid any abuse of this clause, which could create a loophole for individuals caught breaking the law.
- Caution must still apply and such people should be given advanced (defensive) driver training as well as a permit to present to police if stopped.
Mr J Londt (DA, Western Cape) noted a part of the presentation that spoke on the quantities and percentages of the submissions received. He noted the quantitative measure which gives an overview of what is going on within the progress of the Bills.
Submission by SAMRC - Comments on National Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2020 to NCOP: Reduction in BAC Levels Permissible in Drivers
Prof. Charles Parry, Director: Mental Health, Alcohol, Substance Use & Tobacco Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), took Members through the submission on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill. The presentation highlighted their concerns about the permissible BAC (Blood alcohol level) in drivers.
The SAMRC strongly favours decreasing permissible BAC (or BRAC equivalent) levels in drivers from current 0.05g/100ml to reduce the associated heavy burden experienced in SA in terms of loss of life, injury, damage to property and substantial economic costs.
They said the NCOP should refer the Bill back to the National Assembly to have the Portfolio Committee on Transport reinsert the provisions in the original Bill (Section 46 (page 23), indicating a lowering of the allowable concentration of alcohol in the blood of ordinary drivers. It would not be to 0 g/100 ml, as proposed, but to 0.02 g/100 ml instead, in order to allow for detecting minimal amounts of alcohol from medicines or alcohol infused chocolate.
The SAMRC conducted a household survey of 1 957 adult drinkers in Tshwane in 2014. The survey found that 55% supported or strongly supported lower allowable blood alcohol concentrations for drivers. A further 17% indicated that they were neutral on this issue. Only 28% were opposed to lowering BAC levels for drivers.
The impact of reducing the BAC levels:
In June 2008, Brazil dropped the permissible BAC levels in drivers to 0.02g/100ml. As a result, new traffic law was responsible for statistically significant reductions in traffic injury and fatalities in both localities. Ministry of Health data from Brazil shows a 32% drop in road deaths in Rio de Janeiro state compared to a decline of only 6.2% in states where the Dry Law has not been fully enforced.
The permissible BAC levels in Japan changed to 0.03g/100ml in 2002. Research showed reductions in all alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related traffic injuries in the post-law period.
A review of US and Australian studies found reductions between nine and twenty-four percent in fatal crashes associated with implementing zero tolerance laws (BAC=0) for youth.
Key recommendations and remarks:
- Given the possibility of BAC tests being positive due to drivers consuming medications containing alcohol or small trace amounts from drinking even 6-12 hours previously, it is recommended that the threshold for taking punitive action be 0.02g/100ml.
- consider administrative sanctions (fines) for 0.02<BAC<0.05; this will reduce the burden on the police and the courts, and it will prevent people from being criminalised for having small amounts of alcohol in their bodies, but nonetheless send out the clear message that action will be taken against anyone who drinks and drives.
- consider mandatory alcohol testing of drivers at all serious motor vehicle crash sites, i.e., where someone is seriously injured, killed or where there is serious damage to property;
- Not taking the opportunity to reduce maximum BAC for drivers will be a missed opportunity to have an impact on the ~14 000 road deaths a year, where it has been said that 58% of all collisions on SA roads can be attributed to alcohol, and where Arrive Alive has reported that half the people who die on the roads have a blood alcohol level above the legal 0.05g per 100ml limit.
See attached for full submission
Submission by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on the National Traffic Amendment Bill
Mr Matthew Parks, COSATU Parliamentary Coordinator, took Members through the submission.
Social, Economic and Governance context:
- More than 14 000 deaths occur every year on South Africa’s roads;
- Painful and needless losses for those families; threatens their economic survival as it usually involves the loss of breadwinners;
- Costs economy billions in wages & productivity; billions of rands levied from consumers to fund a Road Accident Fund that is nearly R300 billion in deficit.
Complete Ban on Drinking and Driving:
- Alcohol is responsible for 25% of road accidents thus existing laws are clearly insufficient.
- Current limits allow too much ambiguity, e.g., a person’s weight, age, type of alcohol, etc. Proposed banning any drinking and driving is progressive & long overdue and the law must be ruthlessly enforced, especially for young people and professional drivers.
Regulation of and requirements for traffic schools:
- There is a need for provisions providing clear criteria & conditions for driver education schools, including standards for driving instructors & empowering government to deregister offending schools.
- Many driving schools are corrupt, fail to teach learners properly. This is the key cause for a large number of reckless drivers on the road and the issue needs to be dealt with ruthlessly as lives are at stake.
Traffic officials’ business interests:
- COSATU supports prohibiting traffic officials, vehicle & licensing testing officials from having business or financial interests in the sector. It is a necessary anti-corruption provision.
- Provisions for tighter regulation & oversight of weighbridges are important. Frequently, testing quality is poor and often riddled with corruption. This poses a risk to lives of not only truck drivers provided with unsafe vehicles by their employers but all road users.
Professional Drivers’ Permits:
- Requirements for persons driving passengers on a professional basis to have PDPs are necessary. Requirements to earn such PDPs need to be reviewed and overhauled. It is simply insufficient, given the levels of responsibility such drivers exercise over the lives of their passengers.
- Thousands of passengers & road users’ lives are lost due to drivers who should never have been allowed to drive buses & taxis.
- The provisions governing exemptions for emergency vehicles are supported. They need to be further tightened. SAPS VIP Unit officers driving political office bearers are frequently coerced into breaking traffic laws.
- This resulted in the deaths of SAPS VIP Unit Officers, other road users & politicians who demanded or allowed such illegal & dangerous driving.
- New clause needs to be inserted to specifically exclude SAPS VIP Unit members driving politicians & not responding to an actual emergency from being exempt from any traffic laws.
- COSATU supports this progressive Bill. It is long overdue and must be passed by Parliament, enacted by the President and implemented by government urgently.
- COSATU does not agree to the lobbying by industry fixated on profits of liquor sales at the expense of saving lives.
- A mass public education campaign is needed to ensure all officials & road users are aware of their legal obligations.
- Government must begin to take road safety seriously & invest in the capacitation & resourcing of road traffic enforcement.
See attached for full submission
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) welcomed the presentation from COSATU. He stated that the 0.02 BAC should be supported. He raised the question of blue lights being used by private security companies and whether or not it is permissible by law.
Mr Londt stated that law enforcement officials are the only people that are allowed to use the blue lights and highlighted that the use of blue lights are being abused by politicians. He raised the question of the reduction of fatalities of drunk driving and whether the statistics include jaywalking.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked COSATU whether there has been a socioeconomic impact assessment done on the Bill.
Ms S Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) asked how one will differentiate between medication-induced alcohol levels and consumed-alcohol levels as well as their influence on testing.
The Chairperson asked whether the household survey done in Tshwane provides a breakdown between young drivers and older drivers. He noted the progressive analysis done relates to countries outside Africa and asked if any solutions related to BAC levels have been tested in African countries.
Prof. Parry stated that the statistics on reduction of fatalities relate to everybody (all road users).
SAMRC recommends that no action should be taken against those with BAC levels below 0.02. Medication within the prescribed usage does not test above 0.02 in the BAC levels. The recommendation is that people are not criminalised for BAC levels between 0.02 and 0.05 but would just receive a traffic fine.
The Tshwane survey looked at drivers 15 years and older. There is information on those aged between 15 and 18 years. However, the data will have to be re-analysed to see if young drivers were less opposed to the policy.
Majority of the research done on BAC levels with regard to driving is done outside of Africa, in countries such as Australia and Brazil.
The Chairperson asked what the reason for Parliament reverting back to 0.05 BAC level is.
Prof. Parry responded that it might be due to the hesitancy in criminalisation, and another reason is that the enforcement of the 0.05 BAC level is not done well at present.
Mr Parks remarked that society is too tolerant of alcohol abuse. The abuse of emergency lights is a problem and needs to be dealt with. An additional subclause should be introduced so that politicians only use blue lights if there is a threat to life.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) asked if there have been any clinical trials on the effects of strong medication on BAC levels. He raised the issue of enforcement, especially in KZN. The road traffic department in KZN is understaffed and underpaid. As a result, there is no evidence of roadblocks in KZN. Unroadworthy vehicles are also a major problem in KZN and unskilled truck drivers – for example, the Pinetown accident in 2013.
Mr Dangor asked if there is a way to regulate truck drivers who travel long distances and are dangerous on the road.
Prof. Parry explained that clinical trials are done to assess whether an intervention is effective or not. Current research focuses on the interaction of alcohol and medication. Users are advised not to operate machinery or drive when taking a certain amount of medication. Enforcement and legislation are separate issues.
Mr Parks stated that progressive laws are passed but the state fails to inform citizens of the responsibilities. There is a need to increase enforcement capacity, although there is an immediate cost to it - in the long-term, the return is a low accident rate and less disruption to the economy, which yields a cost return to the economy.
Ms Boshoff stated that trucking companies cannot bear the blame for road fatalities. Many truck drivers are unable to stop due to theft and robbery. Thus, the environment does not allow them to stop to take a break.
Mr Parks stated that the solution is to fix Transnet to enable freight rail, as roads are deteriorating, putting drivers in danger. The railway network needs to be secured and protected from criminal syndicates as well as drivers on the road.
The Chairperson expressed gratitude to Prof. Parry and Mr Parks for their presentations and responses.
Presentation on the Overview of Written Submissions on the National Land Transport Amendment Bill
Dr Clarke delivered the presentation.
The Department of Transport, on 15 March 2023, had briefed the Committee on the clauses in respect of which the President raised reservation.
On 26 March 2023, an advert was placed in national media, calling for written submissions on the Bill with a deadline of 24 April 2023. Stakeholders were informed that, in terms of the Joint Rule 209 of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, comments are to be limited to amendments that address reservations previously expressed by the President of the Republic of South Africa, acting in terms of Section 79 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
Objects of the Bill
The Bill seeks to amend the National Land Transport Act (2009) to insert certain definitions and amend others; to provide for non-motorised and accessible transport; to bring the Act up to date with developments since the implementation of the Act; to provide for certain powers of provinces to conclude contracts for public transport services; to expand the powers of the Minister to make regulations and introduce safety measures; to amend other transport-related legislation to bring it into line with the Act; to clarify or simplify various provisions or solve problems that have arisen since the implementation of the Act; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
However, reservations were raised on the unconstitutionality of provisions of the Bill. This, for example, allowed provinces to conclude new contracts and at the same time, to allow national government to intervene where provinces and municipalities fail to perform this duty.
Inputs were received from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the City of Cape Town, South African Bus Operators Association (SABOA), and the Western Cape Government Department of Mobility.
- Section 11(1)(b) of the Principal Act provides for the responsibilities of the provincial sphere of government. It is submitted that it should be specified that the provincial sphere of government is able to plan, implement and manage provincial land transport initiatives, including public transport services. This would include provincial public transport services operating within the borders of the province but across the boundaries of multiple municipalities.
- A province should be able to enter into public transport contracts in specific circumstances when requested to do so by a municipality and subject to a section 12(1) agreement with the municipality. Such contracts could be utilised when contracted public transport services operate across municipal borders. It is currently not clear how municipalities will negotiate and conclude contracts where the operators for services provide these services within a province but across borders between municipalities.
- Requiring “agreement” from the Passenger Rail Agency or other rail service providers concerning the provision of service level planning for passenger rail on a corridor network basis could delay or hinder the completion of the relevant integrated transport plan if such agreement is not forthcoming or delayed. It is submitted that “consultation” is a lesser and more realistic standard to achieve. Further, municipal planning is a functional area in terms of Part B of Schedule Four of the Constitution and one which a municipality has executive authority in respect of and has the right to administer in terms of section 156(1) of the Constitution. Requiring “consultation” would be in accordance with these rights.
- In respect of contracted and subsidised commuter, bus services may be considered “dominant” and exceeding the 70% threshold for dominance defined in the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill (ERTB). There appeared to be significant overlap between the functions contemplated in regulating Regulated Entities as defined in the ERTB and the NTLA, the prescribed reporting lines and responsibilities in the model tender documents, and this Amendment Bill. This is cause for concern, as it would place an unnecessary burden on operators to report and account to various entities in the exact same manner with the risk that what one entity may accept as regular business, another entity may consider it in a totally different manner.
- A general concern with the Act, which is carried over into the Bill, is that there is an assumption that national government can be more interventionist than the Constitution allows. For example, Section 5(6) of the original Act provides for intervention by the Minister responsible for Transport into the affairs of a province or municipality that "cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of matters relating to public transport".
Submission by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) on their Position on the National Land Transport Amendment Bill
Mr Seana Nkhahle, Acting-Chief Officer: Infrastructure Delivery, Spatial Transformation & Sustainability and Mr Unathi Mntonintshi, Infrastructure Roads & Transport Specialist, SALGA, took the Committee through the submission.
The amendment of the Bill should allow for assistance first before intervention takes place and is deemed necessary.
Section seven of the Bill has been largely excluded from the Bill, as per the concerns of the President, SALGA’s and the City of Cape Town (CoCT). However, both the Portfolio and Select Committee said that the Minister of Transport can still intervene in municipalities through Section 5(6) of the National Land Transport Act (NLTA). Section seven is not part of the Amendments.
SALGA is of the view that Section 5(6) of the NLTA is unconstitutional, as it allows for direct interventions by a Minister of Transport on municipal public transport, which is an exclusive function. Section 139 of the Constitution only allows the Provincial Executive or the Minister of Finance. All clauses of the Bill that rely on Section 5(6) of the NLTA are, themselves, unconstitutional.
Section 5(4) of the NLTA also uses languages unsuitable for functions that are exclusive to other spheres of government:
- “Must ensure” integration of public transport
- Municipal public transport is an exclusive function, only possible if the Minister intervenes through Section 5(6), which they contend is unconstitutional.
- The NCOP could add clauses to the Bill that amend Section 5(4) and Section 5(6) of the Act
- Section 11(8), Section 11(9) and Section 11(10) of the Bill could be excluded or modified as they rely on Section 5(6) of the Act.
- If no changes made, SALGA reserves its rights to any form of course of action to ensure that the desired changes occur.
See attached for full submission
The Chairperson asked for clarity on section 5(4) of the Bill, as it related to section seven.
Mr Mntonintshi stated that section 5(6) relates to section seven. Section 5(4) states that the Minister has no responsibility or powers over municipal public transport, as it is an exclusive function. Section 11(8), Section 11(9) and Section 11(10) of the Bill should be excluded or modified, as they rely on Section 5(6) of the Act. Therefore, its inclusion nullifies the exclusion of section seven in the Bill.
Mr Rayi said that the Committee is dealing with the amendment of the Bill and not the Principal Act. Section 5(6) refers to the Principal Act and not the Bill brought forward by the Committee.
Mr Mntonintshi responded that, although section 5(6) is part of the Principal Act, it is an unavoidable spill on from the concerns of the President, which related to the constitutionality of the interventions of the Minister, as section 5(6) still allows the Minister to do what section seven allows, which was removed from the Bill.
Mr Rayi stated that the Committee’s role is not to look at the Principal Act but at the amendment of the Bill brought before the Committee.
The Chairperson stated that, on 14 June, the Committee would receive the Department’s response concerning both oral and written submissions.
Mr Mntonintshi indicated that SALGA would make a submission on their interpretation of the provisions of the rules in the Principal Act and the Bill.
The Committee then considered and adopted the meeting minutes from 24 May 2023.
The meeting was adjourned.
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