DA files objections to gazetted E-toll amendments - Manny de Freitas

MP says publishing gazette over festive season and providing a deadline at short notice not acceptable

DA files objections to gazetted E-toll amendments and requests extension

06 January 2016

The DA has today submitted its objections to the gazetted amendments to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO). The deadline for the submission of public comment is today, 06 January 2016.

To publish this gazette during the festive season and to provide a deadline at such short notice is simply unacceptable and demonstrates that the Department of Transport (DoT) has little regard for democratic processes and real public participation.

The DA will also write to the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, to request that the deadline for public comment be extended to give South Africans the appropriate time they deserve to be able to submit their objections to the e-tolling systems that have been forced upon them.

Just as the festive season kicked off, DoT gazetted the amendments to AARTO. These amendments aim essentially to include outstanding e-toll bills into the traffic fine process and allow for notices to be served via postal mail, e-mail or cell phone text message.  Increased revenue with little regard for actually improving road safety appears to be the DoT’s goal. 

It is clear that these amendments are being pushed through as a direct consequence of the e-tolls failure; criminal punishment for the motorist is being threatened to cover up these failures.

No doubt, the DoT and South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) will claim that they have met the legal requirements for public participation and comment. This particular underhanded tactic was used previously when public participation on e-tolls was required.

The DA has received numerous submissions from members of the public and has included them in our submission to this gazette.  

Included in our submission are the following points:

1. The new regulations propose that an extension of the infringement notice period be 90 days, from the present 40 days. Alleged infringers only become aware of alleged camera-based infringements after the fact and are therefore grossly prejudiced by the inefficiencies of both the issuing authorities and the South African Post Office.

2. The regulations presume that every single motorist has access to and knows how to use the internet. This assumption has no factual basis. 

3. No proof is provided that a particular vehicle was at a scene of the infringement as there is no photographic evidence included in the infringement notice. Photographs on the AARTO website are unusable for anyone wishing to examine them in detail.

4. The regulations do not allow for the possibility that an alleged infringer may wish to be tried in court on one count but to admit guilt on another infringement or infringements.

5. These regulations will prove to be problematic for fleet owners such as car hire companies who will have multiple drivers for one vehicle over a period of time as the proposed regulations do not cater for this scenario.

6. There is no unique reference number per infringement, which is required, particularly when disputes arise.

7. No magisterial district is noted, which is also required should disputes arise.

8. The fact that the notification process does not need to be delivered through registered mail is very problematic as no proof that the person concerned ever received such a notice can be provided. 

The proposed amendments are intended to assist the prosecution of e-toll “offenders” and to continue the proliferation of speed cameras on the country’s roads. This does very little to improve road safety; it only serves to increase revenue, possibly due to low revenue collection from e-tolls that have been an unmitigated disaster since their introduction.

It is therefore clear that the proposed amendments have been drafted without due regard to the contents of the AARTO Act itself and without allowing for real public participation. 

Should the DoT decide to promulgate these draft Regulations, the DA will continue to fight for all South African motorists who have been taken for a ride. 

Statement issued by Manny de Freitas MP, DA Shadow Minister of Transport, 6 January 2016