You can park for free on the streets of greater Joburg – including Midrand and Roodepoort – because no one is looking after the city’s parking meters.

And you might be able to enjoy the free ride until August, when a legal wrangle over the meters is due to be heard in court.

The meters aren’t being cleared or serviced – and, therefore, fines can’t be issued for an extended stay at an expired meter.

As a result, the City of Joburg is losing income of about R450 000 a month from the meters in fees alone, excluding income from potential fines.

Problems with parking meters have plagued the city for the past 10 years.

The latest saga started in 2003, when the council decided to outsource parking meters to a private company called International Parking Systems (IPS).

The company was to install a thousand meters throughout the city and collect the money, of which it was to keep half.

IPS was also entitled to 90% of fines collected for expired meters.

After the deal was cut, IPS installed meters, maintained them and issued fines.

It was also supposed to track down offenders and collect outstanding debts. However, in 2003, the director of prosecutions, Andre de Vries, ruled that all fines issued by private companies were illegal.

He ordered the council to instruct IPS to stop operating the meters.
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De Vries said such a system of payment, as well as a system where traffic wardens are employed by private institutions, were not in the interest of motorists because private institutions were profit-driven.

He said law enforcement should be handled by an independent body that would enforce the law without fear, favour or prejudice.

“Where there is a possible motive, such as profit-making, attached to law enforcement, the perception may be created that it is not done objectively. This has a serious impact on an accused’s guarantee to a fair trial,” De Vries said.

The council then terminated the contract, but IPS took them to court to reinstate it, and won.

The company resumed working until October last year, when the director of public prosecutions issued another directive, aimed primarily at stopping speed trapping by private companies.

De Vries stated that no fines generated from members of the public could legally be shared with private companies.

He gave the council one year in which to sort out the contracts.

Once again, the city cancelled the contract with IPS, who sued the council again.

The matter is due to be heard next month, although the council is trying to obtain an earlier court date.

In the meantime, unbeknown to motorists, there has been no law enforcement on meters since October. Many meters are no longer operational. Those which are, are never cleared.