Sunday, 9 October 2016

Ja, Well, No, Fine the authorities

By Trevor Watkins
When the authorities wish to discipline their citizens for some action or omission, they usually start by issuing a fine.  This is meant to remind you that you have done wrong, that you are being punished, and that if you do wrong again, you will be punished again.  Given the enthusiasm with which the authorities fine their citizens for every imaginable type of transgression, this system works well for them.
If you forget to brake going down the hill into Humansdorp you might get a R500 fine. If you forget your ID book and drivers license when you pop out for a loaf of bread, that could cost you R200. If your dog makes a tiny little mess on the beach, that could cost you R300. As I am sure we have all heard the official smugly informing us, “I’m just doing my job. I don’t care what your excuses are. Sign here to acknowledge your guilt please.”
If your brake light on your car has burnt out and you get stopped, then you will get a big fine. If you go out in the same car tomorrow and get stopped again, you will get another big fine.  Every citizen is subject to a possible fine every day. The authorities make an absolute fortune out of  our inability to keep up with every little rule and regulation that we are supposed to know.  It is just another tax upon the already over-taxed citizens.
So, why can’t we, as residents, fine the authorities when they mess up? When their incompetence turns our roads into deathtraps, when they fail to produce the correct documentation at the correct time, when they allow tons of sewage to spill onto our beaches, why can we not just “Do our jobs” and fine them for every transgression?  If I see a large pothole on a municipal road, why don’t I issue a fine against the municipality for every day that the pothole remains unfixed? If I see raw sewage in a pool on the beach because the municipality did not maintain its pumps adequately, why do I not issue the municipality with a huge fine for every day that the sewage remains? And since this problem affects every citizen who wanders down to the beach, why not let every citizen issue a fine to the municipality? After all, they have no problem issuing a fine to every citizen whose dog wanders onto the beach.
Of course, if we held the authorities to the same standards as they hold us, they would quickly go bankrupt due to their incompetence. Its okay for them to hold a business to a high standard of hygiene, for example, but don’t expect themselves to be held to the same standard. It would be a bureaucratic nightmare, they say. It could never work.  Actually, its really quite simple. The municipality does not need to pay out any cash to its citizens, and it does not even need to keep a record of fines issued against it. We will keep a public record of fines against the municipality, and the amount of the fines will be deducted from any fines owed TO the municipality by citizens and residents. In other words, any traffic fine or municipal fine against you can be set off against any fine you have levied against the municipality.  Good plan? Sure. Would the authorities agree to it? Never – its not in their interests.  We are the sheep to be shaved, not them.
At least we can do one side of this arrangement. The Jeffreys Bay Residents Association has setup a page on their website at https://sites.google.com/a/jbayra.com/jbayra/opinions-menings/municipal-fines
Where anyone can add an incident to the database and assess a fine against the municipality.  You can also view all the fines assessed by other residents so far.
Make your anger and indignation at the shabby way you are treated by the authorities heard. Fine them, again and again, for every act and omission they are responsible for.

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