Speeding fines may be repaid

2011-11-04 00:00

RELIEF maybe in sight for thousands of hapless Howick residents who were caught in a revenue-enhancing, speed-fining frenzy in the town.

Residents believe the exercise could have netted close to R2 million — a portion to go to the town’s coffers and a portion to the company employed by the municipality to trap motorists.

However, the jury is still out on whether speed trapping should be used as profit-generating exercise or as a road safety measure.

Yesterday uMngeni Mayor Mbali Myeni told The Witness the fining exercise is being reviewed following a meeting of the technical services committee.

If it is found that the municipality erred in issuing of some of the fines a resolution will have to be taken to have the fines scrapped and to refund any money paid.

Myeni said officials have been asked to liaise with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the provincial Traffic Department for their input and to report back to the council.

At issue was the sudden change of the speed limit within the town several months ago. Residents woke up one day to find 40 km/h traffic signs erected in parts of the town.

Little did they know that along with the changed signs there were cameras installed and a private traffic speed enforcement company, TMT, working for the municipality.

Reality hit when fines ranging from R250 to R2 500 began arriving at their homes for exceeding the 40 km/h speed limit. Some residents found that they were receiving up to three or four fines in just one day.

The Witness, alerted to the story, did its own probing.

It learnt that officials had told council that a resolution had been passed years ago to change the speed limit to 40 km/h.

The officials also alerted council to the fact that the former municipal manager, Dumisani Vilakazi, had signed a contract with speeding enforcement company TMT in 2004, and this contract was being honoured.

Democratic Alliance councillor Tim Lindsay-White questioned why a contract signed in 2004 was being enforced seven years later.

Asked about this yesterday, Myeni said she was told that a moratorium had been placed on the use of private speed enforcement companies and that the moratorium has since been lifted.

Myeni added that officials have still not been able to find the resolution they said existed authorising the change of the speed limit. In the light of this the technical services committee is recommending to the council that the only area in the town that will be a 40 km/h speed zone is near the Umgeni Hospital.

The committee also noted that the municipality has the authority to change speed restrictions only on roads that are directly under its responsibility.

Myeni was asked whether there have been discussion with the DPP, which would be burdened with added costs and legal work dealing with hundreds more speeding fine defaulters.

The mayor said municipal traffic officials have been asked to meet the provincial Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) and the DPP to review the situation and find out how TMT’s work fits in with the other traffic law enforcement agencies.

uMngeni residents will have to wait until the council meeting to find out their fate over the fines.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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