Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has noted with sincere regret but “little surprise” the horrific 51% increase in this year’s Easter Road fatalities reported by Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi last week.
This, says the JPSA, comes after announcements by the RTMC just before the Easter long weekend that it had targeted a 50% decrease in fatalities over last year. Instead, the Minister announced a 51% increase in fatalities with 235 deaths this year compared to last year’s 156.
“Regrettably,” says Howard Dembovsky, National Chairman of Justice Project South Africa, “it has once again been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that road safety is not a light switch that can be turned on and off, yet it is clear that the Department of Transport, RTMC and all road traffic law enforcement authorities continue to choose to ignore this fact. Instead of consistently and visibly enforcing moving violations all year round, they continue to put on ‘shows of strength’ during holiday periods, which methodology has repeatedly proven itself to be ineffective.”
Dembovsky says the assertion by Minister Maswanganyi that South Africa is not a Police State and therefore cannot deploy traffic officers everywhere is “simply nonsensical.”
“This is more so in light of the fact that it is a worldwide phenomenon that road users will behave as badly as the authorities allow them to behave. Each time a road user gets away with disobeying the rules of the road and other provisions of traffic law, the habitual nature of this negative behaviour is strengthened.”
He says he found it interesting, however, that the Minister and RTMC choose to assert in the same breath that persons accused of serious road traffic offences should be denied police bail through scheduling (not rescheduling as asserted) such offences as Schedule 5 offences in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.
“Until such time as road traffic law enforcement becomes about road safety and not generating revenue, nothing can be reasonably expected to change – and denying accused persons police bail is not the answer. Proper, effective prosecution and consequences upon conviction is,” he says.
“Furthermore, such convictions should not take years to achieve since justice needs to be swift and seen to be done in order to begin to address the situation and have the effect of acting as an effective deterrent to other would-be offenders.”