Traffic fine amnesty in Durban

2008-01-27 00:00

Drivers who come clean and pay overdue traffic fines could be given discounts.

According to Durban Metro Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Thozamile Tyala, a project aimed at offering incentives to motorists to settle outstanding traffic fines began three months ago in Gauteng. Once a few hiccups are ironed out, there is a strong possibility that the project will be rolled out nationally, he said.

He said Metro Police are in favour of the system as it provided an opportunity for motorists to come back in line with the law. While he did not approve of cancelling fines, he pointed out that an amnesty system is an attempt by government to meet people half way.

He said government is demonstrating that it is not "fund raising", but investing in improving road safety and changing motorists’ mindsets.

Although it is not yet clear how the scheme will work, it appears that fines could either be discounted across the board or that motorists could be allowed to pay just a percentage of their overdue fines. The size of any discounts would depend on the severity of the offences.

An amnesty scheme will not only benefit motorists, but also allow municipalities to recover a portion of the millions of rands in fines that are outstanding. In eThekwini alone, outstanding fines totalled around R700 million at the end of last year and more than 2,7-million warrants of arrest were outstanding.

The amnesty project is aimed at clearing massive backlogs at already overburdened courts.

Until the project is formally implemented, Tyala said Metro Police will not "fold its arms". It will encourage motorists to settle up, in full, now, and will continue to issue warrants of arrest for motorists that have not paid.

Road Traffic Inspectorate director John Schnell said he is not aware of any amnesty deal. He explained that local or provincial departments could not simply decide to cancel fines. This would have to be implemented via either the provincial or national Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

Schnell said cancelling fines would do nothing to improve the standard of driving in this country or promote greater social responsibility.

He added that most drivers who fail to pay fines are repeat offenders and Australian systems (on which the soon-to-be-introduced demerit system is based) showed that the driving of repeat offenders tended to deteriorate rather than improve over time.

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