Traffic police administering a breathalyser test on a driver. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Johannesburg - There's confusion on how the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) will enforce harsher punishment for drunk drivers when it appears to have misquoted the Criminal Procedures Act (CPA).

This week, the RTMC said it had submitted policy proposals to the Department of Justice for the reclassification of road traffic crimes away from being Schedule 2 to being Schedule 5 offences.

This reclassification, the corporation said, would force drunk and other reckless drivers to spend up to a week in police custody before being released subject to a formal bail application.

However, a reading of Schedule 2 of the Act reveals that none of the three parts contained in this section of the law says anything regarding road traffic offences.

There are 31 offences contained under Schedule 2 of the Act, which include illicit drug and alcohol trade, treason, sedition, assault and so on.

Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of the advocacy group Justice Project South Africa, confirmed that road traffic crimes such as drunken driving were not contained in any of the Act’s schedules, adding that the RTMC was misleading the public.

Dembovsky added that the RTMC had been misleading the country since 2015 when, according to the group, the roads corporation said that drunken driving fell under Schedule 3.

“The RTMC has been asserting since 2015 that drunken driving is a Schedule 3 offence. So, for some peculiar reason, they seem to think that if people don’t know what is contained in the schedules of the CPA, they can just say it is any schedule offence,” Dembovsky contended.

He added that, should the RTMC want to impose harsher punishment for errant drunken drivers, whom Dembovsky acknowledged were a problem, then the corporation should consider amending the National Traffic Act, “which stipulates that the maximum sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol is six years”.

However, RTMC spokesperson Simon Zwane maintained that road traffic offences were governed in Schedule 2 of the Act, which he said the corporation sought to reclassify.

“The effect of putting it under Schedule 5 will also introduce minimum sentences for those (road traffic) offences. Whether it will pass constitutional muster or not is not something we can decide on upfront.

“But we are going ahead with it. There are far too many people dying on the roads. We believe that we need to save those lives. Our concern is to make sure that we have enough deterrents that will make sure that we save more lives on our roads,” Zwane said.

According to RTMC figures, 135000 people have died on the country’s roads in the last decade.


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