The Justice Project South Africa insisted that either personal service or service by registered mail was the only way in which to serve traffic fines in terms of the Aarto Act.
It asked Judge David Unterhalter to declare that fines could only be served via these means.
The public interest body also wanted an order to force the authorities, including the Tshwane Metro Police, to only serve notices by registered post if it was not served personally on a motorist who had committed a traffic offence.
It further wanted an order compelling the authorities to cancel all fines which were not served via registered mail (if it was not personally handed to the offender). But counsel acting for the Justice Project, during a debate with the judge, conceded this was perhaps not viable.
The Justice Project said it had come to its attention that the “hybrid mail” service offered by the South African Post Office - secure mail - was not equivalent to its registered mail service. It was argued at length that the Aarto Act did not make provision for secure mail; only for registered mail.
It wanted the registrar of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency to stop sending any traffic fines by “hybrid mail”. One of the fears expressed by the applicant was that numerous fines did not reach its destination due to problems at the post office, including strikes.
The post office, on the other hand, said its problems were sorted out and besides, secure mail was exactly the same concept as registered mail. However, notices informing recipients to collect their mail were sent in bulk from a depot and not from the individual post offices.
It said secure mail, as registered mail, could be tracked until it reached its destination.
According to the post office, it now used secure mail and not registered mail as a means of sending out these notices.
Judge Unterhalter remarked that the post office said secure mail was a form of registered mail.
“If that’s true, there is no need for registered mail,” he said. He also questioned what exactly the legislature meant by “registered mail”.
Counsel for the Justice Project, however, several times said the Aarto Act required registered mail.
The judge pointed out he had made this point at least 15 times.
But the advocated insisted that “if you are required to provide product X, you cannot settle for something which looks like product X”.
He said secure mail and registered mail were “two different species”.
The judge was also critical towards the Justice Project for launching this application more than three years ago but that it never bothered to place it on the court roll.
He said the Registrar of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, a respondent in the matter, in the end had to place it on the roll.
“Is the applicant (Justice Project) not interested enough in setting the matter down?” the judge wanted to know. He also slammed the applicant for only filing its replying affidavit to the answers by the respondents years later.
It was said the applicant had experienced some issues of its own which resulted in the matter taking so long to serve before the court.