'Weapons of mass prosecution' - are hidden speed cameras legal in SA?

<i>Image: Supplied</i>
<i>Image: Supplied</i>

UPDATE: We've approached government for comment and will publish a guide on speed-trapping in SA soon. 

Johannesburg - A large proportion of the public  believes speed-trapping, especially by devices hidden behind bushes and barriers, is unethical and should be illegal.

What does the law say about hiding and trapping drivers? Can officers disguise speed traps?

According to the National Road and Traffic act, there appears to be "nothing illegal about 'hidden' traffic officials," says Justice Project SA (JPSA).

Speed-trapping in SA: Can traffic cops hide in bushes?

Wheels24 reader Ricky De Klerk sent us images of a hidden traffic camera:

De Klerk says: "I took the photos in Meyerton on Pierneef Blouevard between Johan le roux and the AGS church stop.

"Meyerton also has a road block on this street where they intimidate you to pay outstanding fines or be imprisoned. As you can see, the camera was unattended and was not on level ground. Can you perhaps share your opinion about this and also if it is even legal?"

Image: Ricky De Klerk

Image: Ricky De Klerk

What do you think of hidden/disguised speed cameras in SA? Email us

JPSA responds

Justice Project SA Howard Dembovsky says: "The photographed speed measuring equipment is supplied by Syntell (Pty) Ltd and is called the 'Multanova – CD' or 'Multaradar'. It is a multi-lane Doppler radar device and as can clearly been seen, is not suitable for handheld operation. 

"We often receive queries regarding unmanned, radar-based mobile speed camera deployments since this behaviour was, prior to December 2012, unlawful.

"After we (JPSA) took issue with the deployment of unmanned non-permanent speed cameras, which the 2006 TCSP guidelines prohibited by prescribing that any non-permanent speed measuring equipment must be operated by a qualified traffic officer, TMT Services and the former Acting CEO of the RTMC, Collins Letsoalo hurriedly got together and amended the TCSP guidelines to suit the operations we had complained to the Director of Public Prosecutions about.

"In that process, the 2012 version not only 'legalised' these operations, with the proviso that such unmanned speed measuring equipment must effectively be guarded by a traffic officer or metro policeman, but the interval between the calibration of speed measuring equipment was illegally extended to every twelve months.

"This stands in direct contravention of A.4.1.2 of SANS 1795 which prescribes that "The initial calibration of every measuring instrument and subsequent calibrations at intervals not exceeding six months, shall follow on model registration."

'Making a killing'

Dembovsky adds: "Since 2012/13, these things have popped up like wild mushrooms in a manure heap, all over South Africa, and literally make a killing for the traffic authorities who get contractors to supply these 'weapons of mass prosecution'.

"It’s hardly surprising since it’s abundantly clear that road traffic law enforcement in South Africa has little or nothing to do with enhancing road safety and everything to do with making money.

"How else would anyone explain the tactic of hiding speed cameras away and taking happy snaps of people who don’t seem to get that the speed limit applies to them, and posting them “pay as you go” fines, instead of stopping them and taking them to task straight away?"

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