Fine news for Joburg drivers

Johannesburg - Joburg motorists won’t be prosecuted for any offence since December 22, and every fine issued since then can be torn up and thrown into the waste-paper bin.

The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) told The Star that it had suspended the posting of all courtesy letters asking for payment.

Joburg metro police officers manning a speed camera& but they may be wasting their time. File photo: Matthews Baloyi. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

In terms of legislation, the RTIA has to send these letters, by registered mail, as reminders that the fine has not been paid and informing motorists that they have lost their 50 percent discount, and have another 32 days to pay.

If the fine is still not paid, the RTIA should send out a notice of enforcement order – also by registered mail – informing the motorist that this failure to pay will be registered on the eNatis system against the driver’s identity number, and he or she will not be able to do any transactions with any vehicle until the infringement notice is paid.

This should also be the start of the process of issuing a warrant of execution against the motorist’s movable property to recover the money once the National Contravention Register has been fully developed.

But the RTIA has not sent one courtesy letter since January, meaning that no further action can be taken against the motorist.

And now that the agency has admitted it is not sending these courtesy letters, it means that not only are some 4 500 traffic officers wasting their time every day speed-checking and stopping motorists for other offences, but the City of Joburg is wasting R7.5 million a month in sending fines by registered mail which are seldom collected.

The JMPD, for 18 months before December 22, was sending fines by ordinary mail. Then, after complaints from the Road Traffic Management Corporation and motorists saying this was illegal, it was forced to start sending fines by registered mail at a cost of R20 each, as a direct result of the intervention of the transport minister.

Some 450 000 fines are sent by registered mail monthly, at a cost of R7.5m. But since January only 10 percent of motorists have paid fines. So since December 22, when the JMPD resumed registered mail, about 1.48 million fines have been sent fruitlessly, costing about R30m.

The RTIA would have to spend the same amount to send the courtesy letters, and again to send the enforcement order letters.

The RTIA said it had experienced challenges at great expense, as courtesy letters must be sent to infringers by registered post.

Some of the challenges include the recent strikes at the South African Post Office.

“In the event that courtesy letters are sent and not collected due to strike action at the Post Office, an enforcement order is authorised, resulting in all eNatis transactions being blocked – such as the renewal of driving licence cards, motor vehicle licence discs and professional driving permits – causing the infringer unnecessary economic harm – especially fleet owner vehicles – and inconvenience.

“These challenges have resulted in the Road Traffic Infringement Agency taking a decision to suspend the issuing of courtesy letters to an infringer until such time that the SA Post Office has given confirmation of an improved delivery of courtesy letters and service levels,” said RTIA spokesman Mthunzi Mbungwana.

A further shock is that eNatis is unable to issue warrants of arrest if motorists fail to appear in court, as the software is not yet functional.

It does not have the software development to upload the outcome of the case onto the National Contravention Register.

Another problem that shows how the Aarto (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) system is imploding: in cases where motorists have to appear in court for major offences, such as speed in excess of 40km/h of the speed limit, eNatis can issue only the initials, not the full names, of offenders.

The courts will not accept this as they demand full names, and are thus striking hundreds of cases off the eNatis court roll daily.

This applies to the Tshwane metro police department as well as the Gauteng Provincial Police Department, where the Aarto system is being implemented.

JMPD acting chief of police Gerrie Gerneke said they were negotiating a solution with the RTIA.