The rules around wearing a mask while driving in South Africa – and the fines you can expect to pay

Magistrates across the country are releasing updated admission of guilt penalties for breaking South Africa’s lockdown regulations, including a number of motoring-specific fines.

Of particular importance for motorists, is the failure to ensure your passengers wear masks while in a vehicle. Motorists can be fined as much as R1,000 for breaking this law under the current State of Disaster, said managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert.

Herbert said while Covid-19 continues to spread, drivers need to treat face masks in the same way that they would a seat belt.

“A driver who wants to ensure that their passengers are protected from unnecessary harm should a crash be unavoidable, will always ensure that every passenger has a seat belt fastened.

“In the same way that you ensure safety belts are secured before starting, ask passengers to put their face masks on as well. If you struggle to drive with a mask yourself because it fogs your glasses, purchase a mask that prevents this.

“Research is showing that the wearing of face masks is one of the strongest defences against the transmission of the virus. Even if a hefty fine is not enough to convince you, the importance of not contracting the disease should.”

When it comes to travelling with people with whom you share a home, the law appears to be open to interpretation, said Herbert.

“If you are pulled over, however, you should wear a face mask when speaking to the police officer. As such, keep your mask close at hand for this and in case the officer requests that you wear one with a passenger, irrespective of who they are.

“There have been instances where officers threaten penalties for not wearing a mask with a passenger but there are more cases where the officer simply asks you to wear the mask. If the officer does not simply ask you to wear a mask, explain your living situation.

“There are more reasonable officers than irrational ones. They don’t make the news or social media because it has no interest factor.”

Herbert said that other fines that can affect motorists include:

  • Fines for travelling outside of curfew which starts at 22h00 and ends at 04h00;
  • Failure of public transport operators to observe maximum load capacities.

Admission of guilt fines

The South African Police Service can give a person who has been arrested on suspicion of a less serious crime an option to pay an admission of guilt fine.

Such a fine allows a person to admit guilt for a less serious offence without having to appear in court, thereby preventing an unnecessary overload of the court system.

It is also meant to resolve less serious matters quickly where an accused person accepts responsibility for having committed a minor offence. However, an admission of guilt comes with a criminal record.

Thousands of people have already paid an admission of guilt fine since the National State of Disaster was first declared.

While the fines differ between regions, the below table provides an idea of what you can expect to pay based on the latest directive for KwaZulu-Natal.

Charge Fine
Intentionally making a misrepresentation that any person is infected with Covid-19. R3 000
Failure by a driver or operator of any form of public transport to take reasonable steps to ensure a passenger wears a mask. R1 000
Failure by a manager or owner of a building, place or premises, used by the public to obtain goods or services, to ensure that members of the public wear a mask. R1 000
Failure by an employer to provide every employee with a cloth face mask or allows an employee to perform any duties or enter the premises without a mask. R1 000
Failure by a principal of a school to ensure that the relevant authority supplies it with sufficient masks. R500
Convening of an illegal gathering during the national state of disaster. R1 000
Failure to be confined to his or her place of residence from 21h00 – 04h00 daily (it should be noted that the curfew now starts at 22h00). R1 000
Attends or hosts a night vigil. R500
Evicting or causing  a person to be evicted from their home under alert level 3 without court authorisation. R3 000
Holding or arranging an initiation school. R2 000
Failure to keep a place or premises, normally open to the public, where sporting, cultural, entertainment, leisure, exhibitional, organisational or similar activities should be closed for the duration of the national state of disaster. R3 000

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The rules around wearing a mask while driving in South Africa – and the fines you can expect to pay