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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  1. #1 by Ron Weissenberg on July 6, 2011 - 10:10 am

    Trevor – as always, I enjoy your ideas. Some questions (not statements, because of our discussion at the ThinkFest the other day). 1) How does one pierce the Corporate Veil ie: the Muni officials are legally accountable to the Municipality – not the citizens. The recent court ruling in Delmas [I think], holding the officials personally liable to do their job under threat of imprisonment may be very relevant here or not? 2) Perversely, could your system actually incentivise the Muni to fine more people and be less forgiving – since this is an ‘offset’ tax?…could one end up with far less service delivery due to higher offset incentives? Thanks…Ron

    • #2 by Trevor Watkins on July 16, 2011 - 4:38 pm

      Granted, the powers that be would need to agree to be chastised by fines – an unlikely event. Dunno why we agree so meekly to be chastised ourselves? However, as you can see on the Jbayra website, we can at least RECORD their incompetence, if not actually claim any benefits.
      On point 2, I believe you should never negotiate with a bully in the hope of getting a less severe whipping because (a) it doesn’t work, (b) it betrays your principles (c) it legitimises the action of the bully. Rather kick him in the goons, then run as fast as you can.

  2. #3 by kennethkopase on November 9, 2011 - 7:14 am

    The best way to promote individual liberty

    It all begins with an individual individually,from home,to work and the civil society in general.
    Imagine if all the individuals can make contributions to individual liberty on daily basis by focusing on how to make ones life better this can be a libertarian society,because you cannot help the other individual if you cant help youself(self reliance)

    The challenge in our country is that the citizens rely on goverment and organisational hand outs,including aid and the tender-prenuership and cadre deployement.Rather than individual property rights consolidated with the intellectual property rights.(Individuals must now start to own their lives).

    However the high unconstitutional and unpresidented corruption will still be rive because of the lack of individual right for individual liberty.

    Exactly what is happenning within the ANC lack of individual rights you need to be a comrade,comrade to be a comrade.
    Meaning you are no longer an ANC member you are someone elses member .Eg Ministre mashatiles member,or Premier Mokonyanes member or Malemas member,so individual liberty is a basic to all the liberties in the individuals property right.


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