Cash-strapped municipalities fine errant drivers to fill coffers
AS South Africans head to their holiday destinations they will be in the crosshairs of financially struggling municipalities which issue fines for traffic infringements to fill their coffers.
With nearly a third of South Africa’s municipalities in “financial distress”, lawless road users bring welcome revenue relief to towns and villages scattered along the main highways of the N1, N2 and N3 linking Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
But, with major cities struggling to force motorists to pay their traffic fines, there is doubt over how much revenue these towns can actually recover from the fines they issue.
The national Treasury, which requires municipalities to generate their own revenue, warns that failure to collect self-generated revenue could see the collapse of such municipalities.
Research by the non-governmental organisation Code4SA, based on data from the Treasury, shows municipalities are attempting to milk errant drivers.
Ubuntu municipality in the Northern Cape last year issued R52-million in fines, which equals 49% of its revenue.
Ubuntu municipality is situated on the route between Cape Town and Johannesburg, and includes the towns of Victoria West, Loxton and Richmond.
Most of the speed trapping by the municipality’s traffic officers is done on the N1 and N12.
According to Code4SA’s research, based on data on fines issued last year, the fines are mostly for speeding but also include bylaw infringements.
They are calculated as fines issued per resident. While rural municipalities are issuing thousands of fines, their total value is less than those issued in the country’s major metros.
The value of the fines issued, however, does not reflect the amount that motorists will actually pay.
Research shows that, on average, municipalities fine a person R64.20.
Towns issuing fines above the national average (per person) include: ý Cape Town (N1, N2): R194.96; ý Theewaterskloof (N2): R274.25; ý Swellendam (N2): R426.08; ý Hessequa (N2): R567.13; ý Knysna (N2): R658.44; ý Laingsburg (N1): R2 065. Code4SA’s research shows many of the municipalities that issue a high percentage of fines per capita are in the DA-run Western Cape.
Western Cape Transport MEC Donald Grant’s spokesman Siphesihle Dube said it was not a DA strategy to make money from fines.
“Municipalities fall under the local government and the province does not make money from fines,” Dube said.
Beaufort West chief financial officer Frans Sabbat said on average 15% of the fines issued were paid.
Knysna municipal manager Grant Easton said 99% of fines issued were for traffic infringements.
Howick municipal spokesman Thandop Mgaga said it fined its own residents rather than motorists passing on the N3.
It issued R24.2-million in fines, of which it recovered R8.6-million. It expects to recover a further R4-million and will write off the balance.
Cape Town safety and security MMC JP Alderman said it was likely some municipalities were fining to reduce passing motorists’ speed, rather than to make money, and that Cape Town had a strategy to avoid “greed fining”.
SA Local Government Association spokesman Sivuyile Mbambato said municipalities had to have revenue-generating instruments so they could fund their delivery obligations.