Court battle over Joburg streetpole cameras heats up

Vumacam has filed an urgent application with the Johannesburg High Court seeking a contempt order against the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA).

Vumacam is a subsidiary of fibre network operator Vumatel, and it uses its owner’s widespread fibre network as the backbone for a network of high-resolution cameras installed around Johannesburg.

These cameras aim to reduce crime in the neighbourhoods they are installed in, and Vumacam has assured the public that it does not collect personal data or sell the footage it collects.

The JRA has taken issue with this, however, accusing the company of operating “spy cameras” and selling footage of people to data collection companies.

It attempted to halt Vumacam’s expansion by refusing to issue wayleaves for the erection of more camera poles, after which Vumacam took the JRA to court.

The court ruled that the JRA must continue operations and process the outstanding wayleave applications, adding that it did not have the power to refuse to process these.

The JRA was directed to issue Vumacam with a decision on the outstanding wayleave applications by 31 August, which it has not done.

Vumacam has subsequently taken the JRA to court again in an attempt to have its wayleaves approved.

JRA disregards court order

“The JRA’s failure to abide by a Court Order issued on 20 August; to meet Court-mandated deadlines; or its duty outlined by municipal by-laws, shows a very concerning disregard for the law and prevents us from installing technology that prevents crime,” said Vumacam CEO Ricky Croock.

“It is unthinkable that we have to again ask the court to ensure that the JRA simply abide by the law and Court’s unambiguous orders.”

Vumacam said that following the JRA’s failure to comply within the stipulated seven days prescribed by the Court, the JRA then informed Vumacam of its intention to apply for leave to appeal but failed to file the requisite notice.

Vumacam served and filed its contempt of court application on 4 September 2020 and the JRA only delivered its notice of application for leave to appeal on Sunday 6 September 2020 – the day before its notice of opposition in the contempt application was due.

Croock said the JRA is delaying Vumacam’s operations in an attempt to frustrate them.

“We believe that the grounds relied upon by the JRA in its application for leave to appeal are misguided and raise no issues which were not adequately addressed in the earlier Court Order,” Croock said.

“As Vumacam complies with all applicable by-laws and privacy laws (the latter of which the JRA is not mandated or qualified to evaluate), we believe these to be delay tactics employed by the JRA intended to further frustrate Vumacam’s business operations.”

“This unfairly prejudices and prevents Vumacam from meeting its commitments to install crime-curbing technology in new areas,” he said.

The High Court indicated that it wished to hear the JRA’s application for leave to appeal as soon as practicable, with the date for the hearing being set for 28 September 2020.

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Court battle over Joburg streetpole cameras heats up