Justice Project says JMPD continues to thumb its nose at the AARTO Act

JOHANNESBURG – More than eighteen months after the JMPD started sending out AARTO 03 infringement notices by standard permit mail in direct violation of Section 30(1) of the AARTO Amendment Act, 1999 (on 1 June 2010), it has emerged that the Acting Registrar of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), Mr Japh Chuwe wrote to JMPD Chief, Chris Ngcobo copying Director Gerrie Gerneke, requesting them to cease this practice on 11 January 2011. The letter was also copied to the Acting CEO of the RTMC, Mr Collins Letsoalo.

The letter starts off by saying:

“The Agency is aware that the JMPD continues to issue infringement notices by ordinary mail and reminds you that this practise is contrary to the prescripts of the Act and are hereby requested to cease such practises forthwith.”
It then goes on to say:

“You are furthermore advised that in cases where representation applications are received in respect of infringement notices served by ordinary mail, those infringement notices must be withdrawn and such representations made successful.”

JPSA has recently come into possession of this letter and has established its authenticity prior to releasing it to the media and the offices of the Public Protector, with whom a complaint was lodged on 16 June 2011; after all other avenues to address this matter had been exhausted. The Public Protector is yet to return a determination on this matter but we remain confident that it will come early in the New Year.

A number of things are very disturbing about the existence of this letter in that:

• The AARTO Act specifically removes the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court over matters arising out of AARTO infringements and transfers it to the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA).
• The Registrar of the RTIA (acting or not) is, in terms of the AARTO Act, supposed to be the equivalent of a Chief Magistrate, whose determinations and instructions are supposed to be beyond question and must be followed unless a higher court overrules him or her.
• The JMPD has not only continued to send out AARTO 03 infringement notices by regular permit mail since receiving the letter but has also repeatedly defended its position in doing so and has furthermore repeatedly stated to the press and members of the public that the notices are 100% lawful and must be paid. Director Gerneke has even gone so far as to say that “people who do not pay them risk being inconvenienced in roadblocks”.
• The letter was addressed to both, the Chief of Police and the Director of Licensing Prosecutions and Municipal Courts and electronic enforcement of the JMPD, both of whom have clearly ignored its entire contents.
• Ngcobo and Gerneke’s actions show an overt disregard for both the law and the authority of the RTIA and can only be described as criminally motivated in that they have both not only ignored a lawful instruction but have continued to act unlawfully, knowing that their actions are unlawful.
• Despite the RTIA having been informed of this practice in a complaint lodged with it by Justice Project South Africa in August 2010, and the Acting Registrar having stated on 1 September 2010 that his agency and the RTMC had undertaken to engage with the JMPD at a high level on this issue and others, the letter was only sent to the JMPD FOUR MONTHS LATER.
• Furthermore, despite JPSA being the complainant to the RTIA, it was not informed of the existence of this letter by the RTIA, nor has it received any feedback from that office since receiving a letter of reply on 2 September 2010.

JPSA has also recently received multiple reports from various sources stating that Director Gerneke has reshuffled his team of prosecutors at the JMPD and has issued an instruction that all representations citing section 30(1) of the AARTO Amendment Act must be rejected and the person concerned must be advised to elect to be tried in court if they wish to pursue the matter.

This tactic is both, contrary to the instruction (request) by the Acting Registrar and a clear effort to frustrate the AARTO process and encourage people to just pay instead of attending court, which is considered to be a huge waste of time by most motorists who have experienced the huge time wastage that is incurred by attending traffic courts which have no regard for their time.

A copy of this letter, along with a further complaint has been sent to the investigator at the Public Protector’s office and will probably be dealt with when those offices reopen in January 2012.

Whilst JPSA is not at all surprised by the fact that the top management of the JMPD have acted in such an irresponsible and corrupt manner, it is horrified by the fact that the Minister and Department of Transport have seemingly taken a back seat and allowed the JMPD to thumb its nose at the RTIA, thus making a complete mockery of the AARTO Act and all of its provisions.
Howard Dembovsky – 082 418 6210 – email howard@jp-sa.org

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