Cabinet traffic offenders are off the hook for at least R207 740 in fines racked up by drivers of their official vehicles.
The department of justice and constitutional development confirmed on Wednesday the fines would be waived as drivers of ministerial vehicles were allowed to speed while on official business, as long as the appropriate warning lights and sirens were on at the time.
The department's spokeswoman, Phumla Sekhonyane, said the National Road Traffic Act allowed for drivers in special categories, including those in civil protection of ministers, to exceed the general speed limit.
Sekhonyane said that as ministers were driven by members of the special protection unit, they were exempt from paying fines.
“If a minister's vehicle gets a speeding fine while being driven by a person conducting his or her civil protection duties, and after such a person has complied with the legislative requirements of exercising safety and using a siren, such a fine will be set aside,” Sekhonyane said.
“If, in the conduct of their duties, it is found that a person engaged in civil protection exceeds the speed limit without due course, such actions must be reported and shall be investigated,” she added.
16 MINISTERS STILL TO RESPOND
A series of parliamentary replies has revealed that the cabinet's accumulated traffic fines include justice and constitutional development minister Jeff Radebe himself, with R34 600 in fines, making him the third-highest offender of those who have replied thus far.
Mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu is in pole position with R64 060 in fines, followed by energy minister Dipuo Peters with R39 400, while agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson is fourth with R30 400 in fines.
A total of R207 740 in fines has been revealed in parliamentary replies, with 16 ministers still to respond to the questions relating to traffic infringements.
DA justice spokeswoman Dene Smuts said on Wednesday Radebe seemed “serenely unconcerned that the long arm of the law might catch up with him when he is speeding in his Mercedes-Benz”.
“Is this because ministers are deemed to be above the law and he is confident that fines will be waived?” she said.
“As the custodian of our criminal justice system, we would expect Minister Radebe to show more respect for the law, and equality before the law, and for the potentially devastating impact of speeding and other traffic violations on the lives of others,” Smuts added.
“If Minister Radebe's need for speed on the road was matched with a desire to speed up the wheels of justice, South Africa would be a better place,” Smuts said.
EXEMPT FROM PAYMENT
Department of mineral resources spokeswoman Zingaphi Jakuja echoed the justice department's position, saying Shabangu was exempt from payment because of the act.
“It is also important to note that the department of mineral resources has not incurred any expenditure relating to traffic fines,” she said.
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries spokeswoman Palesa Mokomele said on Monday the SAPS was responsible for driving Joemat-Pettersson. Traffic fines were sent to the police because the minister was “only a passenger”.
Other departments, however, have paid the fines or held drivers responsible.
The Department of Economic Development's acting director-general, Saleem Mowzer, said it had not paid for the minister's fines because “it is the responsibility of the driver to pay any fines”.
Department of Communications spokesman Siyabulela Qoza said its fines, which amounted to almost R6000, had been settled.
Science and Technology spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele said the R9800 in fines for his department included those incurred by other vehicles in the department, not just that of the minister. - The Star