Your cellphone could be given to an NGO if you break Cape Town's new traffic bylaw

30 September 2019 - 14:43 By Aron Hyman
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The newly drafted version of Cape Town's traffic bylaw will target the city's most dangerous and unlawful drivers.
The newly drafted version of Cape Town's traffic bylaw will target the city's most dangerous and unlawful drivers.
Image: Gallo Images/Foto24/Lulama Zenzile

Your cellphone could be donated to an NGO if it is confiscated by Cape Town traffic cops - according to clauses in the city's newly drafted traffic bylaw.

The bylaw, which will be released for public comment on Tuesday, will also give traffic officers the power to impound your car without prior notice if you are caught driving recklessly, without a licence, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The city said the bylaw was targeted at "the worst" of Cape Town's drivers, and is also aimed at curbing illegal street racing as well as holding public transport drivers to a higher standard.

According to mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, traffic officials have been confiscating cellphones from drivers for four years, but under the current law the city had to either auction or destroy the devices.

"While the national legislation makes the use of your cellphone or any other communications device illegal while you drive, the remedy is a fine. We took that a bit further in the bylaw and provided for impounding.

"In this bylaw there is a provision to donate cellphones that are impounded. It’s been four or five years that we’ve been sitting with these devices, and we now want to get rid of them. The easiest way is to destroy them, or auction them, but we were more keen to donate them to deserving beneficiaries.

"The new bylaw creates a provision for us to donate them to neighbourhood watches, NGOs or non-profit organisations," he said.

In the case of street racing or negligent and reckless driving, vehicles will be handed back to drivers only on the conclusion of criminal legal proceedings against the driver.

According to the bylaw, e-hailing service vehicles such as Uber and Taxify will be identified by a "tag" which would allow the public and law enforcement officials to identify the vehicles as belonging to an e-hailing service and see the driver's operating licence.

According to safety and security portfolio committee chairperson Mzwakhe Nqavashe, the new e-hailing service regulation is being introduced due to fears about human trafficking and gender-based violence, and after discussions with neighbourhood watches. 

Vehicles driven without number plates, unlicensed for more than 90 days, unregistered, or which fail to stop when the driver is given the instruction to do so, will also be impounded.

Impounded vehicles will become the city's property after 90 days if the drivers do not collect their vehicles, but there are also stringent conditions for release, including that drivers present a valid licence disk within 90 days, or, in the case of an unlicensed driver, that the registered owner or driver presents a learner's licence and is accompanied by a licenced driver.

Taxi drivers have lashed out at the city, allegedly vandalising a MyCiti bus station and blocking roads in Dunoon, north of the city centre, after city officials impounded several taxis in the past two weeks.

Nqavashe dismissed claims from taxi drivers that they were being unfairly targeted by the city.

"The taxis’ unhappiness is not genuine because they want to be allowed to do as they wish. We welcome their arrogance in terms of their unruliness," Nqavashe said at a press briefing at the Cape Town Civic Centre on Monday.

"All the complaints you will hear from them is that they not be impounded when they drive terribly. When they reverse in peak traffic and you impound their vehicle, then you are unfair. 'You are targeting us', but you are the generator of mayhem on the road.

"Those people driving minibuses are professional drivers, they have a professional driving permit, yet they don’t drive professionally," he said.

He said the taxi industry was already covered by the first version of the traffic bylaw which came into existence in 2010, and taxis were already  being impounded regularly.

"Yes, they are going to be unhappy. We are not targeting them. We are dealing now with the grey area in these private cars like Uber and Taxify. We know there is a problem with human trafficking in the country and in Cape Town, and there is also gender-based violence," he said.

Smith said stricter legislation was necessary to curb South Africa's exceptional road deaths.

"We are trying to deal with the serious issue of people behaving like hooligans on our roads, and the people contributing the most significantly to danger on our roads.

"While we make a fuss about the threat to safety from violent crime, we are almost peaceful about the fact that we kill 12,000-plus motorists on our roads every year," said Smith.

The city called for interested parties to make submissions online at in the "have your say" section.

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