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Joburg motorists visiting suburbs with boomed-off areas can no longer be forced to sign in or identify themselves before entering public roads.
A new policy for road closures was approved by the City of Joburg last week. The policy becomes effective within 30 days.
Residents of suburbs, particularly in wealthy areas, began closing off public roads with boom gates in 2001 following increasing incidents of crime.
An initial policy was formulated in 2003 but was never approved. Instead, the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) dealt with applications on a case-by-case basis.
According to the new policy:
* No electronic devices such as remote controls may be used.
* One gate has to be manned 24-hours a day, with full, free vehicular and pedestrian access; other gates may have limited hours of operation, but need to be accessible 24 hours a day.
* A resident who chooses not to be a part of the group may not be prejudiced in any way.
* All gates must have 24-hour pedestrian access with wheelchair accessibility and, in case of an emergency, all gates must be able to open.
* Security staff can only monitor activity – they may not search vehicles or people, or ask them to fill in a register or ask for any personal information, nor may security staff cause delay for other motorists.
* No private lock can be placed on these gates; and
* Plans for closures have to be submitted, and proper warning signs have to be erected.
In addition, time frames have now been put in place for almost every step of the procedure, which is likely to facilitate approvals that, in the past, were delayed for years.
In the past, the road closure issue has caused divisions among communities, with unhappy residents breaking down booms with their cars in protest
In Malanshof, where non-paying residents are refused a remote control to some gates, the community is constantly at war
The JRA started tearing down some of the booms around 2004, much to the fury of residents who claimed they had a right to protect themselves.
The JRA then agreed to allow those already boomed off to remain closed, though the applications were never formally approved. The JRA says there are about 350 closures in the city.
“Anyone who fails to enter into, or contravenes the terms and conditions of the policy or neglects to remove illegal structures becomes subject to the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, and the closures will be removed in terms of the road and other by-laws,” said JRA spokesman Sam Modiba.
DA transport spokesman Nico de Jager said the new policy was more user-friendly than before with clear time frames that even the SAPS must abide by. If they fail to, the applications can go ahead.
“In the past, an application could take months and even years to be concluded, often due to lack of co-operation from the SAPS. Applicants were required to submit a very costly traffic impact study when they first applied, as well as when they reapplied. In terms of the revised policy, such a study will no longer be required on reapplication.
“Although residents should not be seen as living in pockets, creating a further divide between rich and poor, there can also be no price on the right to feeling safe in one’s home,” said De Jager.