A landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled that private estates in South Africa are now permitted to establish their own traffic rules and even issue traffic fines.
The case was brought forward by Niemesh Singh, a resident of the Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate, who claims that the speed trapping at the estate was unlawful.
Singh’s daughter was issued three contravention notices for exceeding the speed limit enforced by the estate in 2013, resulting in a fine of R1 500 for each penalty imposed.
The KwaZulu-Natal High Court had previously ruled that the estate had not taken steps required by the National Road Traffic Act to erect road signs, and that enforcement of road rules may only be upheld by a peace officer.
The SCA however, ruled that roads within the estate are not public roads, and instead fall under the road rules that apply to a private township.
“Whilst it is correct that some members of the public (or persons other than those residing in the estate) are permitted to enter the estate, there is no right on the part of the general public or any section thereof to traverse the roads,” Judge Ponnan was reported to have said by BusinessTech. “This has been the historical position since the estate was first established. The non-owners who are permitted to enter the estate are persons who are there with the authority and permission of the owners, and are not to be regarded as forming part of the ‘public’ for the purposes of the definition of ‘public road’.”
Ponnan added that when residents chose to purchase property within an estate, they are bound by its rules.
“The relationship between the Association and the respondents is thus contractual in nature. The conduct rules, and the restrictions imposed by them, are private ones, entered into voluntarily when an owner elects to buy property within the estate,” he said.