No traffic police officer was authorised to prevent motorists from proceeding with their journey if they were found to have outstanding traffic fines, said Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) in response to a recent announcement by government.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) said traffic officers were being deployed on all major routes around the country and motorists found with outstanding traffic fines would not be allowed to proceed.
This, according to JPSA, was not lawful.
“A traffic fine is not a warrant of arrest and should not be regarded as one. An arrest warrant is issued by a judicial officer if a person has been summoned to court and has failed to appear.
“A traffic fine, however, constitutes an allegation of wrongdoing. It is not an invoice or a tax. Preventing anyone from proceeding with their journey on the strength of an “outstanding traffic fine” constitutes de facto unlawful
arrest. Forcing such persons to pay a fine or fines under threat of formal arrest constitutes extortion.”
JPSA chairperson, Howard Dembovsky, added that it was high time that traffic law enforcement officials started obeying the provisions of the law that applied to them.
“Instead of inciting unlawful behaviour by traffic officers, the RTMC should be acting responsibly, by concentrating on initiatives that promote road safety and save lives, where reckless drivers are stopped before they crash into other road users,” he said.