Durban - The national department of transport was adamant on Thursday there was nothing stopping traffic officers from imposing penalties on drivers of bakkies found transporting pupils for a fare.
This after the department published an amendment to the road traffic regulations on the use of bakkies on 11 November.
The new regulations, which will come into effect from 12 May 2017, have created an impression in some quarters that using bakkies to transport pupils was banned.
The old regulation had made it an offence to transport paying “schoolchildren and persons”, but this time around it is emphatic.
The amended regulation reads: “No person shall on a public road convey schoolchildren in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward.”
However, it provides for other people to be transported for reward subject to provisions of the National Land Transportation Act.
Absent from the amended regulations are the penalties to be meted out to culprits found to be on the wrong side of the law.
National transport department spokesman Ishmael Mnisi said the new regulation should be read in relation to the National Road Traffic Act, which deals, among others, with infringements of road rules.
“It means that punishment for the transgressions shall still apply just like when you skip a robot.”
“If you are ever found to be in transgression, it means we will immediately invoke the National Traffic Road Act and appropriate penalties imposed,” Mnisi said.
He insisted that the use of bakkies to transport passengers for a fare had always been outlawed.
“We always enforce, but it’s just that people are not complying.”
When asked about bakkies that continue to transport pupils to schools despite the existing laws, Mnisi said: “We always enforce for non-compliance.”
KwaZulu-Natal transport department spokesman, Kwanele Ncalane, said the amended regulations reinforced their position that the use of bakkies was against the law.
“The National Road Traffic Act is explicitly clear that bakkies are not allowed to transport people for profit-making purposes, thus they are certified to carry three passengers,” he said.
Ncalane said his department had undertaken an audit of all pupils using bakkies because it wanted them to benefit from the existing scholar transport programme and enforce the legislation.
“We are, however, aware of rural areas where there are no approved modes of transport. Those areas will be prioritised in our road construction and maintenance programmes,” he said.
Ncalane also said the transport sector, including the taxi industry, was now required to work towards mitigating against the use of unsafe modes of transport.
At the time of going to press, he had not responded to follow-up questions on their joint programme with the South African National Taxi Council to integrate bakkie operators who transport pupils, into the taxi industry so that they could acquire suitable vehicles.
A task team was formed by the provincial government in 2016 to look into the safer use of bakkies “in general and schoolchildren in particular”.
There was even a plan to develop a policy and a plan with special licences for vehicles used to transport pupils to schools.
Mandla Mzelemu, Santaco KwaZulu-Natal spokesman, said they agreed bakkies were not meant to transport paying passengers, including pupils.
“Bakkies should not transport people, even pupils, but it is understandable because it is one of the ways to support livelihoods,” he said, adding that accidents involving bakkies were a concern.
Mzelemu said a process was under way to legalise bakkie operators and ensure they were allowed to have operating licences.
The details of bakkie operators had been gathered and they were now applying for operating licences.
“Once they get the operating licences, they should have their minibus taxis,” he said.