Last week the Road Traffic Management Corporation issued what many perceived as a thinly-veiled threat to South African motorists with outstanding traffic fines on the road this festive season.
“The RTMC advises all motorists to check if they have any outstanding traffic fines before embarking on their festive journeys,” said the agency, which is responsible for coordinating South Africa’s road traffic law enforcement, in a press release regarding its festive season campaign, on December 8.
“Traffic officers are being deployed on all major routes and those found with outstanding traffic fines will not be allowed to proceed.”
To : All News Editors
Issued : 08 December 2020
Attention : News Reporters / Transport Reporters…
The Automobile Association (AA) and Justice Project SA (JPSA) did not take kindly to the statement and issued fiery responses.
It further stated that a traffic fine is not a warrant of arrest and should not be regarded as one.
The AA accused the RTMC of encouraging law officers to break the law and fear mongering. They called on the RTMC to immediately retract the statement and apologise to drivers “for creating a false impression of the RTMC’s law enforcement capability“.
In response to the furore, RTMC clarified its statement instead of retracting it, by saying that motorists with warrants of arrests on their name for outstanding traffic fines could be arrested.
“We are encouraging motorists with warrants of arrest for outstanding traffic fines to attend to these before they travel,” said RTMC spokesperson, Simon Zwane. “The AA should first establish facts before jumping to conclusions,” he quipped.
The AA says the only time a motorist may be detained at the roadside is if a warrant of arrest is issued against their name. “Preventing someone from proceeding on a journey because of an outstanding traffic fine amounts to arrest without following due process.”
It fears traffic law enforcement officers will use the RTMC’s statement to misapply the law and mete out the law as they see fit.
“[I]t is high time that traffic law enforcement officials started obeying the provisions of the law that apply to them,” said JPSA Chairperson, Howard Dembovsky.
“The RTMC is too fond of threatening motorists with things that are not provided for in the law.”
Since the start of December, traffic law enforcement officers have arrested more than 500 motorists for various traffic offences across the country, according to the RTMC’s statement. Of the arrests, 219 were related to drunken driving, while 189 people were arrested for outstanding warrants.
Nearly 57 000 fines have been issued in the same period, at 128 roadblocks conducted.
Advocacy groups, however, are unimpressed.
The AA said that the RTMC should focus on improving road user education and protecting road users by enforcing laws as they are written, instead of “looking at new ways to generate revenue”.
JPSA called for more visible policing, saying “While hidden speed cameras are super money-spinners for greedy municipalities and roadblocks can detect unroadworthy vehicles, together with those that have unpaid traffic fines, neither tackle the wanton reckless behaviour that plays itself out on our roads every day.”