[I doubt they will ever pay a cent... they'll quickly fix this mistake.
Johannesburg - A serious administrative mistake may result in government
having to pay "billions of rand" in damages to motorists after the powers
of arrest of metro police members, customs officers and nature
conservation officials were revoked "by accident".
"This means that no road traffic fine imposed since 17 December last year
until now is worth the piece of paper that it is written on," says Piet
Kruyshaar, a Pretoria attorney.
This is the result of a notice published in the Government Gazette in
terms of which Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla revoked the powers of
the officials concerned, when the real intention was to expand the powers
of security officers of Metrorail.
Kruyshaar stumbled on the notice when a client approached him for legal
advice regarding the powers of Metrorail security officers.
Kruyshaar says the powers of magistrates, justices of the peace, police
members and warders of correctional services were not affected by the
He said anyone who has been arrested by any other peace officer could
institute a claim for damages against the state for wrongful arrest.
Furthermore all fines, searches, arrests and forfeitures imposed by metro
police officers during the holiday period as part of the Arrive Alive
campaign are wrongful.
Kruyshaar says motorists who were arrested for driving under the
influence of alcohol would go scot-free.
No customs officer had the right to seize drugs or any other property at
airports or border posts and they also had no right to search the baggage
of travellers, says Kruyshaar.
"Anybody who has suffered any of the above has a civil claim against the
state," he said.
"I couldn't believe my eyes. I phoned Olaff de Meyer, also a Pretoria
De Meyer said he was surprised that such a "howler" could crop up.
"I couldn't stop laughing when I saw what poor English is being used in
the Government Gazette," De Meyer said.
Some other members of the legal profession, who were approached for
comment, saw the minister's lapse as blatant negligence with far-reaching
results to the detriment of the ratepayer.
It was not possible to rectify the matter with retrospective effect.
Kruyshaar said he informed the offices of the government attorneys of the
He was told that the matter would be rectified as soon as the person who
had drafted the notice for Mabandla returned from leave.
Appointments not invalidated Advocate Johann Engelbrecht, SC, does not
agree with Kruyshaar.
He said the minister appointed peace officers legally before 17 December
"When the section is revoked, it does not invalidate the appointment of
peace officers as the appointments were made legally.
"Everything done in terms of a valid act is not abrogated when an act is
revoked," Engelbrecht said.
Edited by Wilmer Muller