Johannesburg - There is no legal basis for traffic police to
confiscate the licences of traffic offenders on the spot, Justice
Project SA said on Wednesday.
"There is no provision in the Transport Act or
legislation for traffic police to confiscate licences. It is not within
the law," the organisation's chairperson Howard Dembovsky said.
"I am not saying licences should not be confiscated or suspended for serious offences, there is a way to do so."
He said only the courts may revoke a licence.
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said on Tuesday:
"Drivers arrested for any offence must have their driving licences
seized as well as suspended and/or cancelled."
He was reacting to the 900-plus road death toll so far in December.
His spokesperson Logan Maistry on Wednesday said seizing
licences needed to be done by a court of law. He said the minister was
calling for harsher action against traffic law offenders.
"We cannot do anything without legal basis," said
Maistry, adding that the suspension or cancellation of driving licences
in South Africa was not new.
"The National Road Traffic Act is clear regarding this
matter, and currently grants powers to the courts as well as to the
provincial transport MECs to cancel or suspend driving licences."
Since October 2010, as part of the new national rolling
enforcement plan, several motorists have been sentenced to imprisonment
without the option of a fine. They also had their licences suspended or
cancelled for offences including drinking and driving, reckless and/or
negligent driving and speeding.
Maistry said between 2006 and December 27 2011, a
total of 75 722 drivers' licences and professional driving permits were
cancelled and 3 049 drivers' licences and professional drivers' permits
Dembovsky said confiscating licences at the roadside
would amount to theft and exposed the minister to criminal charges. It
would also open traffic police to corruption.
"The minister might have been emotional when he made this call."
Reacting to crashes during the Christmas weekend, Ndebele said these were usually not accidents.
"They are normally caused through blatant disregard for
traffic laws, which include overloading, drunk driving, speeding and
unsafe overtaking, among others."
He said in conjunction with the ministries of police,
justice and the National Prosecuting Authority, they would continue to
ensure they were more aggressive in dealing with irresponsible drivers.