A catalogue of blunders …
In the last nine months, the Department of Transport has had to withdraw at least four pieces of legislation of which I’m aware (and admit that a fifth is unenforceable), and in every case it’s been because they didn’t solicit or take heed of the views of those who were most likely to be affected.
The first episode of the saga was last year’s debacle surrounding the transportation of “high cube” shipping containers on standard flatbed trailers, which I have explored in detail in a previous column.
Next there was the C1 licence shambles. The problem was (and is) that people were going for code C1 small truck licences because that test is easier to pass than the code B car licence test. However, a C1 licence still allows one to drive a B vehicle, essentially providing a low-standard shortcut to driving a car. Instead of simply bringing the code C1 test standard into line with those of the code B and code EC (heavy vehicle) tests, the Department of Transport made the absurd proposal that if one obtained a driving licence of any higher code than code B, one would have to do a separate licence test for each lower code of vehicle. An outcry from the learner driver and transport sectors forced the DoT to withdraw the proposed legislation at the eleventh hour.
The recurring postponement of AARTO is a matter of public record and S’bu Ndebele’s staff are apparently just too scared of him to tell him the real truth: AARTO is currently unimplementable and it’s almost impossible to know when that situation will be rectified. More so since the appointment of the acting CEO of the RTMC, Collins Letsoalo, was recently found to be irregular by the Labour Court.
The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project toll announcement was another hilarious blunder about which little need be said, save that it took less than two weeks for the Minister to suspend the gazetted tariffs after a public outcry.
The DoT’s most recent legislative bungle involves roadworthiness. Recently, the DoT changed the period of validity of a roadworthy certificate from six months to 21 days. On paper this is a great idea, but the DoT didn’t first consult the transport industry, which promptly took legal action, forcing the DoT to back off. So now a roadworthiness certificate is back to six months again and a new amendment has been published for comment.
All this legislative ping-pong wastes a stack of private sector cash and also costs the taxpayer millions. We should not be expected to sit silently by as a single government department repeatedly botches legislation through inadequate consultation, and has a general track record of mediocrity in many other areas, such as the recent issues with long distance passenger trains and the admission by the Minister (four days after its opening) that the new King Shaka airport in Durban was badly sited. When taken in concert with the outrageous hikes in airport taxes, the chaos at the RTMC, and ever-increasing road deaths, surely it is time for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport to haul Minister S’bu Ndebele onto the carpet and call him to account for the backwards slide of his Department.
Rob Handfield-Jones has spent 20 years indulging his three passions: vehicles, road safety and writing. He heads up driving.co.za, a company which offers training in economical and safe driving.