Paying traffic fines vs paying bribes in South Africa

Speeding motorists made headlines again this past weekend after the Ekhuruleni traffic department confirmed it had arrested five motorists on Monday morning for driving well above the 120km/h speed limit.

According to a report by News24 , four speedsters were arrested for driving between 166km/h and 181km/h while a fifth motorist, a 41-year-old man with three teenage passengers, was arrested for driving 237km/h in a Nissan Skyline GTR sport.

In line with the prescribed traffic laws, all five were released on R1,500 bail each but will now also face a magistrate’s court decision and possible sentencing.

According to JPSA chairman Howard Dembovsky drivers will be arrested and criminally charged for speeding if they:

  • Exceed the speed limit by more than 30km/h on a public road within an urban area.
  • Exceed the speed limit by more than 40km/h outside of an urban area or on a freeway.

“Upon their conviction, their driving licence must be suspended for a minimum period of 6 months upon first conviction, 5 years upon second conviction, and 10 years upon third and subsequent convictions,” said Dembovsky.

Cost of fines 

South African traffic fines are currently prescribed by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) and provincial government. As a result provincial fines may differ slightly.

According to the Western Cape traffic department, offences and fines are divided into three categories:

  • Serious offences: R1,500 to R5,000
  • Typical driving offences: R1,500 to R 3,000
  • Not so serious offences: R500 to R1,500

The fines prescribed for more serious offences include:

Offence Fine amount
Operated a vehicle of which the total combination mass as determined by the vehicle manufacturer has been exceeded by 1,601-1,800kg (Vehicle <3,500kg) R5 000
Axle massload as determined by the SABS or tyre manufacturer has been exceeded by 1,601-1,800kg (Vehicle <3,500kg) R5 000
Passed a vehicle at an unsafe place R3 500
No Roadworthy Certificate. Bus/Midibus/Minibus R3 500
Organised / Taking part in a Race/Sport on a public road without permission R3 000
No Professional Driving Category P Permit. R3 000
Operate unroadworthy motor vehicle R3 000
Disregard No Overtaking R2 500
Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users R2 500
Employing /Permitting an Unlicensed C/EC Driver to drive a motor vehicle R2 500
Disregard Yield Pedestrian Sign R2 000
Fail to comply with instruction, direction or obstruct, hindered, interfere Traffic Officer R1 500
Fail to stop vehicle on command of Traffic Officer R1 500
Overloading a vehicle with max 56,000kg combination mass by 12-13.99% R1 500
Employing /Permitting an Unlicensed Driver to drive a motor vehicle R1 500
156-160km/h in a 120km/h zone R1 500
151-155km/h in a 120km/h zone R1 250
Driving without a driving licence R1 250 – R2 000
Disregard Stop / Yield R1 000

Cost of bribe 

With such heavy fines and possibly even jail time on the line, the Ethics Institute’s South African Citizens’ Bribery survey for 2016 revealed that more and more South African motorists are choosing to bribe traffic officials.

According to the survey, a third of people reported that they knew someone who was asked to pay a bribe this year – significantly higher than the 26% in 2015. In addition, of the 33% of participants who said they knew someone who had been asked to pay a bribe, almost 60% said that the bribe was paid.

The average bribe amount mentioned was R2,201, slightly up from R2,005 last year.

While the most frequently mentioned bribe amounts were R50 and R100, the median bribe amount was R700 (the median being the midpoint on the list of all the amounts mentioned by participants.)

56% of the bribes reported were below R1,000, while 91% of bribes were reported to be below R5,000 – indicating that very high bribe values were rare.

That said, according to the report, in 2016 there were significantly more bribes in the R5,001 – R10,000 category, indicating a continuing trend upward.

Speaking to Corruption Watch in April, associate professor at Wits University’s School of Governance, William Gumede, warned that corruption is becoming so widespread in South Africa that there is a danger of it becoming viewed as normal.

“Once it becomes normalised in society, it will be almost impossible to eradicate it,” he said.

Corruption becomes institutionalised when public officials do not follow the rules set down in a country’s constitution and legislation. Once this happens, government business is done on shady terms such as patronage and clientelism.

“South Africa is in a real danger of following the same pattern where corruption becomes institutionalised,” Gumede said.

While the focus is often on ‘high level’ corruption – such as government and white collar corruption in business – citizens must also actively avoid their own every-day temptations to engage in corruption, Corruption Watch said.

Read: 5 big brand cars that people aren’t buying in South Africa

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Paying traffic fines vs paying bribes in South Africa