Weekend Post (South Africa)
Metro in hot water over fines debacle
Thousands of motorists affected after municipality altered tickets
ASCRAMBLE to enforce thousands of outstanding traffic fines after an alleged glitch in registering speed cameras in Nelson Mandela Bay has left the municipality’s traffic department at the centre of a police probe.
This follows claims that the locations of speeding violations listed on traffic fines were unlawfully altered to include a wider stretch of road to secure the legality of the citations.
Thousands of fines dating back to January 2015 had been withdrawn by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s traffic department since November, with claims that it failed to register specific speed camera locations with the director of public prosecutions (DPP) given as the reason for the recall.
These fines were later reinstated by the traffic court in Sidwell with a larger stretch of the road listed on the new citations.
Weekend Post has seen thousands of the fines – with the originals all stamped “withdrawn” – where the location of the alleged offences were expanded to include a longer stretch of road on the updated citations.
Police spokeswoman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg confirmed a case had been opened by Pieter Swanepoel, of Traffic Violation Specialists.
Janse van Rensburg said after traffic officials allegedly realised the cameras were placed at the wrong locations, they withdrew the charges but then reinstated them.
“It would appear the traffic department decided to re-issue the fines which had been withdrawn earlier. The location where the alleged offence was committed and its addresses were later changed,” she said.
The alleged glitch deals with fines captured between January 2015 and November last year, involving more than 25 000 fines – ranging from R500 to R1 000.
Janse van Rensburg said the matter was under investigation.
Locations of speed cameras have to be approved by the DPP as stipulated by road traffic management corporation guidelines.
“An issuing or traffic authority that wants to use a camera for prosecution purposes where the alleged offender is not immedi- ately stopped and charged shall obtain written permission from the DPP for the roads or section of roads where it intends doing such,” the guidelines state.
The original fines relate to speeding motorists caught on sections of Driftsands Drive, Cape Road, C J Langenhoven Drive, Uitenhage Road and the N2 going past Colchester.
Phiwe Mqumbuli, 40, was allegedly caught speeding 15km over the limit in a 60km/h zone on Uitenhage Road between Dyke and Chase Roads on November 19 last year. After his R250 fine was withdrawn, it was reinstated to include Uitenhage Road between Dyke and Mati Road.
Mqumbuli said he was shocked the traffic department could extend the initial coverage of the
speed camera because they allegedly failed to get proper permission. “This is ridiculous.”
Mzwanele Citwa, 60, was allegedly caught on December 12 doing 101km/h in an 80km/h zone while driving past Colchester on the N2.
His R500 fine – with the alleged offence captured on the N2 between Wellington Street and the Colchester turnoff – was withdrawn. But it was then reinstated to cover a longer stretch that goes from Darling Street all the way to Main Road.
Citwa said he was baffled how the traffic department could do that. “I do not understand this. This is very strange.”
Confused, Citwa enlisted the help of Traffic Violation Specialists.
Swanepoel said he had opened the case because he felt unsuspecting motorists were being ripped off by a system that often flouted laws without anyone being held accountable.
“It is fraud. Any traffic violation brought against you must contain the date, the time, correct location and state who the traffic officer was. In these cases, they simply adjusted the location to suit themselves.”
Swanepoel opened the case against the municipality and Traffic Management Technologies (TMT), the company that manages speeding cameras in the city.
Nelson Mandela Bay Munici- pality spokesman Mzobanzi Jikazana said Weekend Post’s questions had been sent to the traffic department but it had not responded. “We are aware of the matter and the municipality will defend itself,” he said.
Following complaints from motorists, traffic department acting special operations superintendent Brian Myburgh wrote an e-mail dated November 17 to TMT official Edwards Samson, admitting the locations were wrong and should be changed.
“Upon inspection held by myself . . . after receiving numerous complaints, it’s become clear to me that some of our locations are indeed incorrect and should be rectified with immediate effect,” Myburgh wrote.
His e-mail forms part of a legal letter sent by Swanepoel’s lawyer, advocate Brent Harker, to the municipality’s safety and security control prosecutor Winston Mzaidume.
Harker’s letter requests information as to why the locations of offences were changed or expanded, and who authorised it.
Shortly after the legal letter was sent, the 25 000 fines were withdrawn and reissued with a larger stretch of the road listed on the new citations.
But Mzaidume wrote back to Harker, saying: “No tampering with evidence has been done . . . the speed measured, the main road and the location of the camera which is essential, has not been changed. Only a joining street is added or changed. I therefore find no reason why these notices [updated with new locations] must be withdrawn.”
Mzaidume, Myburgh and Samson could not be reached for comment.
Justice Project South Africa chairman Howard Dembovsky said he was not surprised if the traffic department had flouted the guidelines. “The law is there for everybody to obey,” he said.
NPA provincial spokesman Tsepo Ndwalaza confirmed the traffic department must get permission from the DPP to set up speed cameras.
“If authorisation is granted for a route or a specific stretch of road – for example, the N2 route from the Coega turnoff down to the Greenbushes turnoff – cameras may be placed at any point along the authorised route, but no more than one camera on that stretch of road at any given time,” he said.
“It would appear the traffic department decided to re-issue the fines which had been withdrawn earlier” Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg