The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) countrywide instruction that all traffic fines older than 18 months be cancelled is to be welcomed.
The NPA has clearly sided with the tenet of natural justice that “justice delayed is justice denied”.
But it has also sent a clear message to municipal authorities that they need to get their act together when it comes to traffic law enforcement.
For too long now, there has been inadequate control over municipalities who believe there should be no time limit for the money-making machine which traffic fines has become.
It is true that the new instruction does not apply in Johannesburg and Pretoria, where the Aarto (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) system has been partially in place for some time.
And, given that the Aarto laws and amendments, currently before parliament, will be rolled out to the rest of South Africa soon, the NPA’s instruction will soon be overtaken.
There are many concerns about Aarto – which includes a points demerit system for bad or illegal driving – not least because it does make more complex the process of defending yourself before a court.
Another concern of critics is that the process adopts a “guilty until you prove yourself innocent” approach.
However, in those countries where a points demerit system has been implemented – and where serial offenders have their driving licences suspended – there has been a notable improvement in the behaviour of motorists.
We welcome any system which will help bring down the death rate on our roads, which is one of the highest in the world.
And, we do not believe that offenders should be allowed to repeatedly stonewall and delay the process of prosecution, as well as clogging up the courts.
We need an efficient, equitable way of restoring law and order to our highways and byways.