Outrage as Midvaal uses camouflaged speed traps

The Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) have expressed outrage after evidence surfaced last week that the Midvaal municipality was making use of military grade camouflage on speed traps, and that the traps were not being manned as required by law.

“Recent sightings, photographs and video material of speed cameras being operated in various areas, including two DA run Municipalities, which are being used in a fraudulent and illegal manner have once again highlighted the way in which Municipalities are happy to engage in unlawful practices in order to generate what they view as a form of taxation of motorists who exceed the speed limit in their jurisdictions,” said TPSA National Chairman, Howard Dembovsky.

Dembovsky said between Thursday and Saturday last week three masterfully camouflaged mobile speed cameras were photographed in the Midvaal Local Municipality’s in separate locations, all of which saw military grade camouflage netting masterfully wrapped around them.

“What’s more no traffic officers were anywhere to be found operating this equipment,” he said.

Dembovsky said in one instance, two technicians from Mavambo ITS – the company that was recently awarded the tender to provide Midvaal with speed cameras –  arrived to check on their equipment before redeploying it elsewhere shortly afterwards.

“The Technical Committee for Standards and Procedures (TCSP) prosecution guidelines are very clear with respect to the use of speed measuring equipment and state that mobile speed measuring equipment – i.e. speed measuring equipment which is not permanently installed must be operated by a qualified and permanently employed traffic officer who is additionally in possession of a valid operator’s certificate for the specific equipment in use,” said Dembovsky.

In terms of these regulations, automated operations where there is no operator present must have the Speed Measuring Equipment permanently secured.

Section 1.8(a)(i) of the TCSP guidelines clearly states that “only speed measuring or traffic light violation monitoring equipment installed in a permanently secured housing may be used for automated operations for prosecution of speed violations and/or traffic light violations.”

Dembovsky pointed also out that one of the directors of Mavambo ITS was an ex employee of TMT Services (Pty) Ltd, a company that was recently caught up in a scandal in Mpumalanga where the Advocate George Baloyi of the National Prosecuting Authority ordered that the unattended and/or security guarded, automated use of speed cameras operated by TMT Services (Pty) Ltd be ceased.

“It is our understanding that Mr Anthony Benadie of the Democratic Alliance in Mpumalanga has lodged a complaint with the Offices of the Public Protector which complaint furthermore seeks the refund of over R60 million in fines paid by members of the public who received these unlawful fines. It seems rather disingenuous for the DA to seek such relief in an area where they do not run the Provincial/Municipal authority concerned and then to engage in the almost identical modus operandi in their own Municipal areas,” said Dembovsky.

But it is not only Midvaal where unmanned mobile speed cameras are being used in automated mode.

Cape Town too has been reported as engaging in this practice, although it would appear that in the case of Cape Town, the equipment is set up by a traffic officer who then goes and sits in their vehicle parked some 30 metres down another road.

This is also illegal, according to Dembovsky, who says that despite the fact that a traffic officer sets it up, the speed measuring equipment is used in an automated mode and is not installed in a permanently secured housing, it is therefore also in contravention of the Technical Committee for Standards and Procedures (TCSP) prosecution guidelines.

The City of Cape Town passed a Council Resolution in 2007 (Traffic Violation Camera Policy C 06-07-07) wherein its policy on concealment says:

“3.3.4 Concealment

Mobile camera enforcement by its very nature involves at times a degree of concealment. This could be as a result of such practicalities as ensuring the safety of the operator, vehicle and/or the camera. Every attempt must be made not to be excessive or over imaginative in this regard and mobile camera enforcement must be visible by approaching motorists at least thirty (30) metres from the point where the enforcement occurs.”

“Whilst it could be argued that over imaginative practices are not employed in Cape Town, since they don’t go the whole hog and shroud their equipment in camo netting, they most certainly are in Midvaal and it is not clear whether Midvaal has a similar policy to that of Cape Town or not.  However, it is an unarguable fact that traffic enforcement should be about achieving greater road safety and not about making money.  Clearly, the Midvaal Municipality is of a different opinion,” said Dembovsky.

The practice of deploying camouflaged, unmanned, automated mobile speed measuring equipment in the Midvaal area has apparently been occurring for somewhere in the region of two months now and popular deployment sites we have now come to know of are Henley Drive in Henley on Klip, Morris Road in Meyerton and under the Randvaal Bridge on the R59 Danie Joubert Freeway.

JPSA has published full information, photographs and video on its website at www.jp-sa.org to assist motorists who have received fines from the Midvaal Traffic Department to identify if they have been affected by the issue of illegal fines.

“We have also made arrangements for anyone who has received such fines to register criminal dockets of fraud against the perpetrators of this fraud and full details are provided at our website,” said Dembovsky.

“We have maintained our standpoint since day one that traffic enforcement should be about enforcing all traffic laws, in as visible a fashion as possible, with a view to increasing compliance and reducing road fatalities and should not be about making money.”

“Nothing will alter our view that portable camera speed prosecution has become a filthy dirty way of generating massive revenues for municipalities and contrators who have clearly shown that they are not interested in anything other than making money.  Where fraud is detected, we will not hesitate in assisting members of the public to bring criminal charges against the entities who try to defraud them,” he said.

JPSA has written to the DA leadership to express its disgust at the engagement in criminally fraudulent traffic fine practices that have emerged.  JPSA has not ruled out the possibility of lodging a complaint with the Public Protector should the leadership of the DA not address the issue satisfactorilly, however we will give this process a fair chance to be addressed before further burdening the already overburdened Office of the Public Protector.

References:

The following documents and sections have reference:

Prosecuting Guidelines for Speed Measuring Equipment and Traffic Light Violation Monitoring Equipment March 2012

  • Section 1.1
  • Section 1.6
  • Section 1.8

City of Cape Town Council resolution C 07-06-07 Traffic Violation Camera Policy of 27 June 2007

  • Section 3.3.3
  • Section 3.3.4
  • Please note that this policy may have been updated but to our knowledge it is current.

Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 as amended

(1)(a) The Minister may by notice in the Gazette declare that any person who, by virtue of his office, falls within any category defined in the notice, shall, within an area specified in the notice, be a peace officer for the purpose of exercising, with reference to any provision of this Act or any offence or any class of offences likewise specified, the powers defined in the notice.

(2)(a) No person who is a peace officer by virtue of a notice issued under subsection (1) shall exercise any power conferred upon him under that subsection unless he is at the time of exercising such power in possession of a certificate of appointment issued by his employer, which certificate shall be produced on demand.

(b) A power exercised contrary to the provisions of paragraph (a) shall have no legal force or effect.

Context and import of this provision:

  • Only a lawfully appointed peace officer may issue a fine for a traffic offence.  Technicians employed by private companies are not peace officers and therefore have no legal right to issue traffic fines.

All documents & legislation referred to can be found at http://www.jp-sa.org/MidvaalFraud.asp