Illegal for cops to confiscate licences
Johannesburg - There is no legal basis for traffic police to confiscate the licences of traffic offenders on the spot, Justice Project SA said on Wednesday.
"There is no provision in the Transport Act or legislation for traffic police to confiscate licences. It is not within the law," the organisation's chairperson Howard Dembovsky said.
"I am not saying licences should not be confiscated or suspended for serious offences, there is a way to do so."
He said only the courts may revoke a licence.
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Tuesday: "Drivers arrested for any offence must have their driving licences seized as well as suspended and/or cancelled."
He was reacting to the 900-plus road death toll so far in December.
His spokesperson Logan Maistry on Wednesday said seizing of licences needed to be done by a court of law. He said the minister was calling for harsher action against traffic law offenders.
"We cannot do anything without legal basis," said Maistry, adding that the suspension or cancellation of driving licences in South Africa was not new.
"The National Road Traffic Act is clear regarding this matter, and currently grants powers to the courts as well as to the provincial transport MECs to cancel or suspend driving licences."
Since October 2010, as part of the new national rolling enforcement plan, several motorists had been sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine, and also had their licences suspended or cancelled, for offences including drinking and driving, reckless and/or negligent driving and speeding.
Disregard for traffic laws
Dembovsky said confiscating licences at the roadside would amount to theft and exposed the minister to criminal charges. It would also open traffic police to corruption. "The minister might have been emotional when he made this call."
Reacting to crashes during the Christmas weekend, Ndebele said these were usually not accidents.
"They are normally caused through blatant disregard for traffic laws, which include overloading, drunk driving, speeding and unsafe overtaking, amongst others."
He said in conjunction with the ministries of police, justice and the National Prosecuting Authority, they would continue to ensure they were more aggressive in dealing with irresponsible drivers.