Money-grubbing municipalities

2010-01-11 09:16

There are a lot of greedy municipalities in South Africa that are unwittingly contributing towards the carnage on our roads.

What they are doing in their cash-crusade to extract speeding fines from as many motorists as possible, is to do the absolute minimum required by law to inform motorists of a lower speed limit and more importantly, tell them when that speed limit is over.

Take the little town of Richmond roughly halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town on the N1. It is controlled by the Ubuntu Municipality and rather than spreading unbuntu this bunch is coining money hand over fist by playing the camera-trap game. Nothing illegal about what they are doing. Just plain sneaky.

Sure, there is a sign warning of an 80 km/h speed limit on the N1 as one approaches Richmond without actually being able to see the town.

Most drivers slow down. But then, after driving for quite some time through what appears to be open countryside with not a building nor road junction in sight, many of these drivers assume the speed limit has gone back to 120 only to discover that a sign saying so appears much further down the road. And that's where they all get trapped.
Now, how does this sort of thing contribute to the carnage on our roads?

Well, I have spoken to three different people over the past two weeks who used the N1 over the festive season. Each one of them went to great lengths to say how they had stuck to the speed limit all the way.

Three law-abiding citizens trying desperately to stick to the law.

Each one was caught by the little game played out by the Ubuntu Municipality at Richmond.

Now here's the kicker. Each was so angry at what they saw as blatant deception that they said their attitude was why should they bother to stick to the law in future. It was simply not worth it.

What has happened is that three formerly law abiding people will probably feel that if they can get away with travelling at 140km/h instead of 120km/h, they will do it and if they get trapped, well they won't feel bad about it because at least they'll feel guilty.

Unlike the feeling they had when those speeding fines arrived from the Ubuntu Municipality. Anger. Unfairness. Deceived. Let down. And most importantly, why should I even bother to try?

It seems to me that there is no doubt that as long as municipalities rely on speeding fines to augment their annual budgets, there will be no real attempts by their traffic departments to keep death off our roads.

Send your comments to Chris

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  • slowpoke - 2010-01-11 09:51

    I was under the impression that, in the absence of a sign cancelling a previous instructional sign, that an instructional sign applies for a distance of 300m. I seem to remember that from the days (pre K53) when I passed my driver's licence test.

  • CTheB - 2010-01-11 10:32

    The problem with speed traps is that they encourage drivers to spend their time looking at their speedometers rather than concentrating on driving. There are people who will just blatantly race along, knowing they're well over the speed limit, but I've gotten caught on a couple of occasions where both I and my passengers were sure I was driving within the speed limit. It was only when we looked at the speedo after the flash that we saw I was a little over.The placement of speed traps in SA demonstrates a quest for money rather than safety - cameras placed under bridges and painted so as to be difficult to see in the shadows, or placed carefully behind bushes and the like.The best thing one can do is keep up to date with the rules regarding speed traps, particularly information about how close to a speed trap sign they have to be, how far from speed limit changes, corners, etc. That will hopefully allow people to get on with concentrating on the dangerous business of driving rather than wondering which particular bushes have a camera hidden in them.

  • Steve - 2010-01-11 10:37

    when has it ever been about anything other than money?

  • Real Wiseman - 2010-01-11 10:46

    Chris, if speed limits are confusing for South Africans, watch and see the SWC. Car rental companies will receive the fines and the drivers will by that time be safely back home. The primary goal of traffic departments is to promote road safety - the income received from traffic fines is not sufficient to fund the function and must be assisted by the "Community Services" budget.

  • Cruise Control - 2010-01-11 10:48

    I do agree. Many a municipality is known to resort to this trickery. Yet btwn towns it seems they do not care and speeding is common without any officials to be seen.
    The attitude of the offending drivers seems to be that THEY know what they are doing....maybe they do, but what about the other users of the road? I was always bought up to assume it was not me but the other drivers that were the this way I drive more cautiously as I cannot assume that the other driver knows what they are doing or is in control.
    How about putting up camera boxes every kilometer and simply moving the camera btwn them randomly. In this way, drivers will never know which has the camera and will remain vigilant and within the speed limit!
    Better yet - lets all just stick to the is not there to try and "trick" us or "catch us out" - it is there for a very valid reason.

  • Paddy - 2010-01-11 11:14

    In some places in SA (eg the N2 between George and Knysna) they use the trick of reducing the speed limit from 100 to 80 to 60 over a very short distance, often on a downhill. People see the change, and you often need to slam on the brakes to avoid getting the dreaded camera flash. This in itself can be extremely dangerous.

  • Johan - 2010-01-11 11:24

    The Tshwane municipality must take the cake for shocking service delivery.Its evolving in an armpit of a city really.Dr Gwen is a useless and incompetent liar!

  • John - 2010-01-11 11:28

    Another issue is the synchronizing ( or lack therof) of traffic lights. How often in a 60km/h zone, will almost every Traffic light stop you as you get to it. Seems that they are set for 80km/h - to entice one to speed.

  • Psycho - 2010-01-11 12:00

    I would also like to point out that the camera has to be visible...thus any fine issues by camera's that are obstructed by trees and branches are in theory, void.
    Also trpping up a hill or down a hill are not legal ... (was the last i heard about trapping on hills so may be under correction here)
    The reason most people dont pay the fines is that after 2 months or so the traffic officials rescind these due to irregularities and thus cannot go to court. They are thus hoping the general public will pay the fine before court as it is crushed in court ... not all but more than you can imagine.
    The traffic officials are as bad as the politicains ...most a bunch of cronies !!!!!!

  • PETERE - 2010-01-11 12:02

    Everyone knows that 90% of speed trapping is revenue related, either through trickery as above or only trapping in areas with blatently inappropriatelimits for the conditions. My solution would be to channel all traffic fines to state coffers. Without the incentive to "entrap" motorists, hopefully the traffic cops can get back to what they are supposed to be doing, ie controlling traffic and stopping inappropriate behaviour. I don't know what some of the dorps will do for money however?

  • Twisted - 2010-01-11 12:03

    While still living in Natal I got home to a fine from Richmond. I immediately thought it was a mistake as I had been nowhere near Richmond (Natal). So, I guess the fine improved my geography, but not much else. I later spent a night there on my way to Cape Town. Not much of a town - what are they spending all this lolly on?

  • City Engineer - 2010-01-11 12:12

    John - "synchronizing of traffic lights", what's that ?

  • Errol - 2010-01-11 12:23

    I was caught in Richmond by travelling 95kph 5 years ago and still receive reminders of an outstanding fine, just shows the incompetence of Ubuntu Muni!! the moral of the story?? Ignore it.

  • Linda - 2010-01-11 12:25

    I got a fine in Richmond 5 years ago and paid it in 2007 after being sent a final notice. They are still phone and mailing even although I have sent proof of payment on several occassions.

  • geanann - 2010-01-11 12:28

    You are too kind when you suggest their contribution is "unwitting"

  • jorelda - 2010-01-11 12:45

    Stop moaning and obey the speed limit. We all want to get home in one piece. Seems like you all have money to waste.....

  • Paul - 2010-01-11 12:54

    I agree often in really dangerous places one spends more time looking at the epeedo to prevent being trapped than driving properly. One such place is van Reenans pass where the trapping make conditions dangerous.

    Also after speaking to people there is a school of thought that says that the cops in Colesberg simply write down number plates of the cars passing through and send them fines wether they are speeding or not. The comment was passed by a collegue that she had received several fines in Colesberg but had never seen a camera there.

  • RBH - 2010-01-11 13:03

    In the UK, there are electronic signs on the sides of the roads, which give you a speed reading and tell you to slow down if you're over the speed limit. These are useful as often you will unwittingly be over the speed limit. So rather than be focusing all your attention on your odometer you can concentrate on the road.

  • victor - 2010-01-11 13:14

    It is a pity that they do not use this money to repair the many potholes on our national roads that are causing accidents and deaths, so much for their arrive alive campaign.

  • Dave - 2010-01-11 13:18

    Simerlarly, the Durban Metro cops were ticketing cars parked on the wrong side of the dirt road in the middle of the Umgeni River valley yesterday during a 'Duzi Canoe Marathon qualifying race. The number of "local" drivers using the road on a Sunday morning at that time can probably be counted on 1 hand. No real obstruction occurred and the action simply hardens people's attitudes towards the Mettro police for once again, going for "soft" targets instead of hammering the real criminals of the road.

  • Traveller - 2010-01-11 13:21

    Try Umthanjeni muni, they send sms'es, instructing to contact their number in order to pay a fine, but I have never received any physical fine. With all the scamming going on, they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting that fine paid.

  • Randolph - 2010-01-11 13:23

    The speed limit posted on signs is to be obeyed until another one replaces it. Other than that, it's quite simple: 60km/h in a built-up area, between 70km/h and 100km/h on main roads, and 120km/h on freeways.

    I drive at below the speed limit. If I'm unsure, I'll drive at 60km/h in built up areas or 70km/h on main routes. It REALLY isn't that hard.

    (I also stop at stop streets and broken traffic lights, I wait my turn for oncoming traffic before turning in an intersection, and if I am late, it's because I left late.)

    Chris, honestly, this article seems to be to be just a poor justification for you and your friends' assumption that the rules can be changed to suit them.

    The rules of the road may suck and not always make sense, but that does not give anyone the right to drive like they want to.

    The traffic officers may be looking to make money, but after what I heard on the radio about Christmas-related debt, isn't everybody? They're a necessary evil.

    Grow up, everyone. Taxi-mentality will get you killed.

  • John - 2010-01-11 13:29

    and it gets worse. Many of them have fraudulent practices when issues fines - for some bizarre reason I so often get trapped at 111 in a 100 zone? Best example is Venterdorp on the N14. I go past there often, using my speedcontrol and GPS speed of 105 but someone have revceived 9 fines of 111kmh over the last two years??? I smell a big fat rat on the gravy train!

  • Henry - 2010-01-11 13:33

    Agree 100%!!!! I was caught in Beaufort West (also notorious for playing the camera game). Its 80km/h before a bridge, and 60km/h on the other side. Problem is by the time you see the 60km/h sign - the baboon under the tree already caught you. So instead of making roads safer, they put endless effort in finding the best/tricky spots to catch you... So from Beaufort West I did an average of 160km/h onwards - since it was proved to me that trying your best to abide by law and sticking to the limit counts for NOTHING... They've got high hopes if they think I'm going to pay that fine...

  • Patricia - 2010-01-11 13:44

    Psycho, if you do know of the law number where I can find this out, I would really appreciate it, as I received 2 fines in December here in Gauteng, where the cops sit on a downhill (60kms zone), hidden behind a tree. They sit on a slope, so I just wonder how accurate the camera is set up, where it abides by the rules of setting up a camera. Any help would be appreciated, as these fines are quite hefty, which I feel is unfair, because when traveling down the hill, my foot is off the accelerator, plus I was applying brakes, but one cannot help but exceed the 60km speed limit downhill.

  • Hennie - 2010-01-11 13:44

    I always use the N1 at night. It is safe and unpoliced. That is when I get overtaken by an articulated truck doing 160km/h downhill. All the traffic 'police' sleeps then. Responsible motorists save electricity by having as little as possible working lights on their cars. Other than a few really gruesome head-on-head collisions I have never seen an accident on this road. I have once seen the exploding fireball as such an accident occured a kilometer ahead. Apparently 7 people died in that one but the exact death count had to be confirmed by DNA testing. It does sober one up for a while until the realisation returns that other than a few permanent cameras (all in 80 zones) one is free to go as fast (or as slow) as one's mood takes him. Hey, who really cares!

  • Yeti - 2010-01-11 13:58

    You have said it all. - But no one speaks out the truth: African authorities are: incompetent, liars, corrupt, selfish, egoistic, heartless, merciless, uneducated, lollipop suckers, .... can someone continue this list please? Because the journalists don't have the guts to say the truth, and it is about time that someone says the truth.

  • Wondering - 2010-01-11 14:01

    The ultimate must go to Randburg. At the robot in front of Brightwater commons they have 2 cameras. One to catch you if you cross on orange and another to catch you if you speed. to make it worse, the robot is in a dip between 2 steep hills.

    The dilemma when the light changes is whether you accelerate and get a speeding fine or brake and have a bumper bashing.

  • semjaja - 2010-01-11 16:07

    educate yourselves about what constitutes a valid traffic fine re. photos, check out
    I never pay a fine before the final notice and only one out of the five I've got in the past 3 years has been valid.

  • Gert - 2010-01-11 17:23

    Spot on Chris. The same goes for a lot of other "highway robber" municipalities. I had similar problems around Plett. Absolutely bogus speed limits in the middle of nowhere, and boy are they watched! But then again the mayor' massive credit card account has to be paid, why not by extracting toll from the passers by.

  • mndisi - 2010-01-11 17:26

    yesterday, I went to Newtown Museum afrika. Outside this area is a pedestrian crossing. 4 police vehicles(including metro)came past speeding past the pedestrian crossing. I suspect these vehicles were being used for personal use as they had casual clothed men and women. No seatbelts. They all raced over the crossing inspite of the german tourists on it(who they just missed by metres) and us about to cross. I even pointed at the markings in the road as they raced past and they waved me off. Sadly enough the women behind had her bag hit by a taxi which intentionally veered toward her as it raced through no less than 100 km/h but we werent too worried as the hillbrow police van behind it with the cop and his girlfriend sitting next to him, racing behind the taxi and over taking didnt look too worried either. The time as between 5 and 5:20pm.

  • hollywoodpiet - 2010-01-11 17:45

    worst of all is i got my tickets at these rubbish infested smaller towns (cradock, hofmeyr) where the municipalities don't care about the amount of garbage laying around.

  • Fleet Owner - 2010-01-11 18:51

    I have a fleet of trucks and bakkies that receive notices on a regular basis from JHB Metro. I do not pay any until I receive a summons, and guess what, I havn't received one in three years. I believe this is because they know their fines are illegal and cannot be enforced.

  • Put-foot - 2010-01-11 20:38

    Couldn't agree more! I've driven the motorways in many countries and only in SA have I come across the blatant abuse of the law by the traffic officers themselves. No wonder the general public has no respect for traffic law enforcement in SA at all.

  • Frankc - 2010-01-11 21:00

    Cruise Control you talk rubbish plain and simple. How the hell can you explain speed traps are there for a reason when there are NEVER a speed trap in a 60 km zone at a place where MANY people cross the road and many accidents happened, but there is hidden speed traps 1 km further on a double road with almost never a single pedestrian walking or crossing? FACT is that in 95% of situations speed traps are in areas where it's easy (and safe) to exceed the speed limit a bit but never where it's NOT safe and easy to exceed the speed limit and then people like you come with hollier than thou attitudes.

  • gary young - 2010-01-12 05:31

    it is bullshit to say the local municipalities as guilty. if you see a SIGN for 80/km per hour it means just that. untill further notice. just because you get impatient and increase your speed does not make it their fault. just follow the law or go for another driving course. law is law. it seem you have bought your licence not knowing the law. otherwise you would have known the rules of the road. stupid ass.

  • Anarchist@Randolph - 2010-01-12 07:52

    You are missing the point about Richmond. If you are driving on this open stretch of road you are not expecting the speed limit to suddenly change. What if the town treasurer has parked the town's honey sucker in front of the sign to obscure it. No sir that town is out to collect money. They could make more effort to warn you - more than one sign. But the point is they don't give a tinkers about the safety aspect - it's the revenue. But hey, I'm impressed that you are such a good bloke.

  • floyd - 2010-01-12 07:55

    Why does the N1 not bypass Richmond?

  • Happygas - 2010-01-12 08:21

    law ENFORCEMENT can only be done by visible policing NOT by hiding behind a bush

  • Gary - 2010-01-12 09:30

    I have to agree with Randolf here. Unless you see a sign saying that the speed limit has been upped, then it's still the same. Assuming that the 80kph zone has passed is juvinile at least. Stick to the signs.fullstop.

  • ZION@YETI - 2010-01-12 09:45

    Yeti, I tried that some forums back and was censored.

  • Koochie - 2010-01-12 10:00

    Why do people make it so hard to abide by the law? Driving from Bedfordview to Alberton, with roadworks on the highway the speed limit is 80 as with most roadworks. I was abiding by the speed limit, and was in the middle lane. A truck came bareling down behind me, almost licking my bumper, hooting and screaming at me! Now last time I checked, trucks are supposed to do 80 anyway? Then a SAP van drove past in the fast lane, full of SAP Officers, shouting at me to go faster????? I was doing what the law told me to, and yet I get abused by the truck driver and SAP?? THis is why things won't change on our roads, because criminals are allowed to do what they like and the innocent are the victims!

  • trids - 2010-01-12 12:49

    The problem is that money from speeding fines gives rise to corruption and fraud on the part of traffic officers. Instead of going to the municipality/local traffic dept, the money should go to the Road Accident Fund. That way, traffic officers would not be incentivised to bend the law as their greed would not prosper from it. And the money would be serving a good purpose.

  • Nick - 2010-01-12 14:08


  • tea - 2010-01-12 14:36

    Then.............why don't we all as drivers conspire to stick to the speed limit and cause these municipalities to go bankrupt ! Remove the cause of the revenue and hopefully this will force them back onto the roads to look for other offences ????

  • Wayne - 2010-01-13 13:49

    Just a thought. If you receive a fine in the post say 2 months later how does anyone know if the camera was set up correctly and what your speed was.111 or 71 are very popular speeds it seeems.

  • oiltrash - 2010-01-13 19:54

    My word... I just paid my fine from Richmond which I got about 2 years ago.. Chris your article is spot on, what they are doing there is just plain wrong!!!

  • Dim - 2010-01-17 12:43

    I remember a time when the speed limit was for the drivers safety. Oh what a wonderful world we live in. Why are you people complaining you are so selfish. There are some people in the municipality offices that only take 3 holidays a year and some of these poor souls only have 2 cars. Stop your whining and give them your money so that they can improve their lifestyle. You selfish selfish people.

  • fizza - 2010-01-19 09:59

    Drive on moloto road from PTA to marble hall.Near moteti villages ,the speed limit is 80kmph BUT the are bizaar humps on the Road.Incompentence at large 80kmph VS Humps..Thus why there are lots of accindents on thear Road.

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