The problem of speeding on South African roads recently garnered public attention after a video of a driver reaching 309km/h on the N1 in Gauteng was posted to social media.
The driver was subsequently arrested for the offence, but Justice Project South Africa chair Howard Dembovsky argues that prosecution is not a common outcome when dealing with high-speed offenders.
“This raises the question why this particular person has been treated entirely differently to every other person who exceeds the speed limit by more than 30km/h on a public road situated in an urban area or more than 40km/h on a public road outside of an urban area or on a freeway,” Dembovsky told MyBroadband.
“Such persons are caught on SANS 1795-approved speed cameras every day, and I have not heard of a single arrest taking place.”
Only speed measuring equipment that meets these SANS 1795 specifications may be used in prosecuting any offence involving exceeding the speed limit, Dembovsky said.
No Tshwane drivers prosecuted in 12 years
To demonstrate how unusually eager the authorities are in this case, Dembovsky referred MyBroadband to a sworn affidavit before the High Court in which the Municipality of Tshwane said it had not prosecuted a single driver for exceeding the speed limit by more than 40km/h when caught on camera in the municipality.
“The deponent thereto, on behalf of the Metropolitan Municipality of Tshwane and the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department avers that no summonses have been issued in their jurisdiction ‘because the courts do not have jurisdiction,” said Dembovsky about the matter.
“This admission demonstrates that in almost 12 years, not one motorist has been prosecuted for exceeding the speed limit by more than 40km/h when caught on camera in Tshwane.”
He added that the City of Johannesburg may have different reasons for not prosecuting these motorists, but it too has not summoned all drivers caught on camera exceeding the speed limit by more than 40km/h.
“Nor have many municipalities in South Africa,” Dembovsky said.
Equal before the law
According to the Constitution of the South Africa, “everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law”.
Dembovsky said the failure of law enforcement agencies therefore present major problems, as it would allow the N1 speedster to appeal his conviction on the grounds that nobody else is prosecuted for the same offence.
“Because of the issues mentioned above, regarding the failure of law enforcement agencies to summon all alleged offenders to court, this is not a small issue. It is a huge one and will give this person the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court if he is convicted.”
“Making fish of one and fowl of the other is simply not provided for in terms of the constitution,” Dembovsky added.
“If the RTMC and the Minister of Transport had demonstrated only half the vigour in pursuing charges against the hit and run perpetrators caught on camera crashing into, swapping drivers, and then fleeing from the scene after checking nothing other than the damage caused to the grill of the car, I may have been inclined to applaud them.”
Video of incident here. Warning, graphic visuals – Video
Instead, they did not say anything about that incident – exacerbating the problem.
Dembovsky said he does not endorse or encourage dangerous behaviour on South African roads, though.
“Persons who engage in dangerous behaviour should be dealt with appropriately by the courts on conviction,” he said.