The Committee was briefed by the Department of Transport on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill [B39B – 2008]. The Committee was not satisfied with the presentation as it failed to explain the reason for each of the proposed amendments. The DoT agreed to forward a more comprehensive explanation to the Committee. A prominent discussion point was that of the uniformity, or rather lack thereof, of traffic officer’s uniforms across the nine provinces. The Department explained the fact that road traffic management was a provincial competence led to a lot of fragmentation. The National Department of Transport could not prescribe. Instead it hoped to achieve consensus through their Road Traffic Co-operation Forum.
National Road Traffic Amendment Bill: Briefing by Department of Transport (DoT)
Mr J Motsatsing (Acting Chief Director: Road Transport Regulation – DoT) went through the PowerPoint presentation, outlining the background of the Bill and the objectives of the Bill. He proceeded to go clause by clause through the proposed amendments, stating which section each would amend and what change was being made. The briefing concluded that provincial departments responsible for transport and traffic, local authorities and other stakeholders were consulted and in closing asked that the Committee approve the Bill.
Mr L Van Rooyen (ANC – Free State) asked how DoT proposed actually to prevent the wearing of traffic officer’s uniforms by unauthorised people. He asked how they intended to prevent these uniforms from getting into the hands of the public. With regards to the proposed mandatory wearing of nametags by traffic officials, he asked what would ensure that officers wore the correct one and did not use another officer’s tag. With reference to clause 7, Mr Van Rooyen wanted to know why the focus was on the applicant and not the traffic officer. He also asked how the fees were established.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP – Gauteng) referred to the Bill’s objective in making new provisions for the process by which driving licences are issued. He said that the problems with driving licence stations was the fault of the department and asked what being done to address this. He asked what the penalties for impersonating a traffic officer were. Noting clause 12 that dealt with speeding fines, he stated that a minimum sentence needed to be indicated.
Mr Motsatsing responded that sometimes sentences were not commensurate with the offence as this was left to the discretion of the judiciary. He did allude to processes that were supposed to establish an administrative process to provide for sufficient sanctions. In terms of wearing of uniforms by criminals, he stated that this was a problem with law enforcement. The DoT could only prescribe, directorate heads need to manage this. This also applied to the issue of nametags. With regard to fees, Mr Motsatsing replied that uniformity of fees could only be ensured if the power lay with the DoT. DoT prescribed the process and not the fees.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC – Limpopo) commented that she was under the impression that it was time for a national uniform. She asked how the legitimacy of a foreign driver’s licence could be verified. What was being done about the abuse of sirens by emergency services? She asked if there was any interaction between the DoT and Department of Education (DoE) about road safety education.
Mr Motsatsing replied that all driver’s licence documents were face value documents that were easy to identify. He added that the DoE was playing a role in education about road matters.
Mr A Watson (DA – Mpumalanga) said that the DoT had done a very good job of reading the presentation to the Committee, but they had not actually explained anything. He asked what clauses 15 and 16 actually meant, as his reading of the Act indicated that if a siren was present it afforded the vehicle in question exclusion from complying with the Act. However in the case of escorting another vehicle there was no reference to or provision for the escortee’s vehicle. With reference to clause 14 he felt that they could not rely on roadworthy certificates from other countries, especially from SADC countries. Mr Watson asked what was described as unauthorised assistance during a driver’s licence test.
Mr Motstatsing replied that only emergency vehicles and the police could transgress road rules legally, but that the unfortunate portion is that the VIP car being escorted would still have to adhere to rules. Allowing private vehicles to transgress rules opened a can of worms and the provision needed to be ring fenced to a specific category.
Rev P Moatshe (ANC – North-West) was concerned that TBVC licences were still an issue. He criticised the briefing and agreed with Mr Watson that there were no specifics and that nothing was explained.
Mr Motsatsing replied that they were engaged in prescribing a date when TBVC licences would become invalid and that they were engaged with provincial departments in trying acquire the necessary files.
Mr Z Luyenge (ANC – Eastern Cape) raised a concern around the uniformity of fees and standards due to provincial devolution of authority on the matter.
The Chairperson stated that amendments to legislation were developed with a political problem at the basis and no basis was provided by the DoT. Having explained the basis would have assisted the Committee in determining that a certain amendment had been proposed in order to solve a particular problem. He asked what would happen in the case of an individual transgressing road traffic laws in order to get someone to hospital. The Chairperson voiced his surprise that the TBVC licence issue had not yet been resolved. With regards to traffic officer uniforms, he felt that as South Africa was a unitary and not federal state, there was no reason for different provincial uniforms.
Mr Motsatsing replied that most of the issues raised where ones that the DoT had been trying to address for years, which had been hampered by the fact that they had to take every proposal to provincial level and try and get agreement about them. This was where the issue of uniformity became problematic. He questioned why the provinces felt the need to prescribe different traffic officer uniforms. In an effort to address this fragmentation the Road Traffic Co-operation Forum (RTCF) was established in order to serve as a unifying forum for the various MECs prescriptions. He added that representation had been made by Kwazulu-Natal that the DoT was impinging on one of their competency areas and that the province needed to evaluate how this would affect them. The RTCF was supposed to be able to ensure uniformity as the DoT could not effect prescriptions, instead it hoped to achieve consensus.
The Chairperson added that he was worried that it took 15 minutes to make the presentation and that after 45 minutes only a handful of questions had been answered. He asked if there was not a more creative way to deal with their queries.
Mr Motsatsing replied that he would streamline the presentation document and provide an explanation for the clauses, then forward it to the members.
The Chairperson noted that every five years, driver’s licences needed to be renewed and asked how TBVC licences could still be in circulation with this process. He added that TBVC states were phased out in 2004. The Chairperson also found it odd that the DoT could prescribe nametags for all traffic officers, but not a single uniform. He added that they were not going to clarify anything now and that they should wait till the next meeting after the revised document had been forwarded to members.
Mr Luyenge stated that these inconsistencies indicated that the DoT had not done its job properly.
Mr Watson asked when they would get the revised document.
Mr Van Rooyen was worried that the DoT could set procedures for accident reporting, as this was under the ambit of the police. He asked whether this had been discussed with insurance companies.
The Chairperson thanked the department, but noted that these issues needed t be dealt with.
The meeting was adjourned.
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