SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL CONSUMER UNION

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 27 SEPTEMBER 2017

RECOMMENDATIONS

ROAD TRAFFIC IN SOUTH AFRICA   

The Women’s Agricultural Union – Overvaal Branch appeal to the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Minister Mkhacani Maswanganyi to take action against unlawful and reckless drivers.

Against the background of the current road traffic situation in the Republic of South Africa, an urgent call for action to the respective role-players to urgently and definitively act against unlawful and reckless drivers.  By their actions they show that they have no regard for their own lives as well as the drivers and passengers lives of other vehicles and even pedestrians lives or any other road user’s lives.

MOTIVATION

  1. Insufficiently trained drivers

Prospective drivers need to be exposed to stricter training regimes before licenses are issued.  This needs to include knowledge of weather conditions, emergency situation as per example – a burst tyre.   Correct road user rules need to be instilled from an early age with children.

2. The possession of false drivers licences

At road blocks it is routinely discovered that several of the driving licences have been acquired by illegal means.  More severe penalties need to be applied to this.  This illegal practice needs to be urgently eradicated as there are uncountable amounts of passengers who may suffer due to this practice.

  1. Un-roadworthy vehicles

Law enforcement needs to be adjusted to force vehicles to be tested on a regular basis and not just at the change of ownership.  These tests are of particular importance in the public transport sector.  For example, taxi’s and busses.

  1. Corrupt Law enforcement

In the WAU’s point of view, the biggest problem SA faces is the overloading of taxis and the passengers are not buckled in.  Babies and small children are not buckled into baby seats and transported in the prescribed lawful way.  The banning of mobile phone use during the operation of a moving vehicle and exceeding the speeding of the speed limits need to be better enforces.

SOLUTION

In lieu of the current measures taken to reduce the problem, the WAU would propose the following:

Honorary Traffic Law Enforcement Officers (same as Honorary Game Rangers that are present in some Game Parks), vehicles be marked and equipped with effective cameras.  It is the WAU’s opinion that it would extend the arm of visible policing and help to enforce discipline on our roads.

WATER IN PROCESSED RED MEAT PRODUCTS REMAINS A CONCERN   

SANCU urges the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to see to it that adequate inspections are done in the meat industry. It has come to the notice of SANCU that there are retailers in the market selling processed red meat with 30% water added, which is a direct infringement on the Agricultural Product Standards Act, 1990. This is misleading consumers who many times are not aware of this infringement of their rights. We are talking about the most vulnerable in the market place. This means that the market does not heed regulations put in place to protect consumers.

MOTIVATION

According to the Agricultural Product Standards Act, 1990 (Act No 119 of 1990) “treated meat” is defined as the process of adding a chemical solution with permitted additives, substances and ingredients to meat by processes such as nut not limited to injection. Clause 21 (7) states that treated meat was subjected to “….with brine”, ….with brine based mixture; provided that a maximum of 10% weights gain shall be allowed for quality enhancement purposes.

It is with great concern that there are retailers in the market place who claim 30% water added to processed red meat. This is misleading to consumers who many times are not aware of this infringement of their rights. The Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008 who was promulgated on the 30Th April 2011 very clearly stipulated that consumers have rights and Industry should start taking notice of this and accommodate consumers.

DEBT COUNSELLING FEES  

SANCU appeals to the Minister of Trade and Industry, the National Credit Regulator and the Credit Ombudsman to make it compulsory that any Debt Counsellor who claim to do debt counselling should inform consumers up front what costs are involved in the restructuring of a consumer’s debt. Consumers are not aware of the maximum amount of R6 000 which is paid up-front when the first payment is due. The guidelines explicitly says that the fee is 100% payable at the first instalment. This means that the consumer is immediately further in debt with R6 000.00 A further concern for SANCU is that should a consumer withdraw from this process a fee equal to 75% of the restructuring fee is payable. The time has come that the industry take notice of this and inform consumers properly of what is in stock for them should they consider the restructuring of their debt. The Debt Counsellor must also inform the consumer that they are unable to apply for credit whilst under Debt Counselling.

MOTIVATION

Consumers are facing tough times due to a slack economy and many of them are unemployed. Many consumers have to acquire debt for the most basic commodities and have fallen into a debt spiral. To keep on urging them to go to a Debt Counsellor who will sort out their debt problems without telling them upfront what costs are involved is unconstitutional. The Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008 very explicitly requires the market to be transparent so that consumers can make an enlightened choice. The time has come in South Africa that the Industry start treating consumers with respect and adhere to the CPA.

CONSUMER REPRESENTATION IS REQUIRED ON BOARDS AND COMMITTEES   

SANCU has noticed a lack of consumer representation on many boards and committees. Although the Consumer Protection Act No. 68 of 2008 does not explicitly address this, it does imply that consumer representation would be welcomed. Consumer representation should be welcomed on Boards and Committees due to the fact that they are on ground level and really know what the people of the country want and where the need is. NGO’s such as SANCU has committed consumer activists who would be more than willing to represent consumers on ground level. The voice of the consumer should never be under-estimated and could enhance many an outcome which otherwise would have been ruined because of the lack of the voice from the man on the street.

MOTIVATION

Since the demolition of the very capable South African National Consumer Council in 2006 and the closing down of many Agricultural Boards very little has been done in South Africa to have the voice of consumers heard. SANCU acknowledged the Ombudsmen and the National Consumer Commission, which inter alia are sponsored either by Government or the Industry and do not represent consumers. SANCU received many complaints from consumers who at this day and age still do not know where to go to for help who many times are sent from pillar to post and are becoming more and more despondent. SANCU would like to urge the Minister of Trade and Industry to consider making it compulsory that there should be consumer representatives on all boards and committees. This can only add value to any Board and Committee

ROAD TRAFFIC MARKINGS   

The Women’s Agricultural Union Piet Retief Branch, urges the Minister of Transport and SANRAL to address the problems with solid white line markings in South Africa

MOTIVATION

The main aim of the lines is to guide the driver in judging the safe overtaking areas and thereby eliminating driver error.  If these lines are incorrectly marked, it misleads the driver and can land a conscientious driver in a potentially fatal position.

A few example are highlighted below

  • If a driver is behind a truck with no view of the road ahead and has only the line in the middle of the road to indicate possible safe or non-safe areas to overtake. When the solid line merges into a broken white line the driver moves closer to the centre of the road to check if there is oncoming traffic, if there is no coming traffic the driver can accelerate, moving into the right had lane to overtake.  As soon as the driver is alongside the truck, an on-coming vehicle appears unexpectedly out of a dip in the road.  These drivers then have a split second decision to make without being able to communicate with each other.  In a split second one or more of the vehicles travelling at high speed will have to veer off the road to avoid a collision.  This is all due to the driver placing his trust and decision in the broken white line which should have been a solid white line.
  • Usually a driver is not permitted to overtake on a road that bends to the left. If there is a road bending to the left with only a broken white line, and a driver unfamiliar with the road assumes it is safe to overtake, this innocent driver lands directly in front of on-coming traffic while trying to check for oncoming traffic before overtaking.
  • Lastly, where the road, according to the traffic rules as well as visually, it would be safe to overtake but there is a solid line which prohibits the driver overtaking, the driver loses the opportunity to overtake in a safe area.

All of the above examples can be found on the N2 between Ermelo and Piet Retief as well as other roads in the region.

NO-FAULT INSURANCE

The South African National Consumer Union calls on the The Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Transport and the Short Term Insurers to convene a study to remedy this continuing blight in ‘unfair’ settlements that favour the insurance companies and recommend that the no-fault system as adopted by the short-term insurance companies be reviewed  and modernized.

MOTIVATION

Fault can be more readily determined these days as head on accidents have declined to less than 20% of all reported cases.  In this inflationary age victims continue to suffer personal and financial loss well after the event as a result of unfair evaluations, and denial of cover implications

ENVIRONMENT LEVIES

The South African National Consumer Union urges the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Environment and National Treasury to review the plastic bag charge and tyre environment levy charge.

The introduction of Environment Levies in South Africa initially on Plastic Bags and latterly on Tyres has brought incremental value to the country in terms improved recycling rates, creation of upstream upcycling and beneficiation and new jobs created.

In fact the two companies approved by the Department of Environment Affairs appear to have capsized, but the Levies continue to be collected by the fiscus (National Treasury)

MOTIVATION

A un-ring-fenced tax is morally repugnant to consumers, as is the actual cost borne by consumers.  This is and will continue to be a difficult year for consumers, there appear to be no plans to improve the situation and over R1,25 billion rand will be taken from consumers this financial year under this guise

(In reality the consumer have lost much more in the plastic bag saga as they not only pay the environment tax, but also pay for the cost of the bag – with no rebate for the advertisements carried on the bag).  At minimum a review of the quantum and methodology of the taxation be undertaken – if levies cannot be withdrawn altogether