How (not) to Pay your Traffic Fines in South Africa

I remember when I got my first speeding ticket here in South Africa. I didn’t mind the ticket so much as having to figure out yet another new thing – how to pay traffic fines. I also didn’t like the chastising I was sure to get from Noisette about “paying no attention and always driving too fast.” Of course he hadn’t received any tickets yet.

Or so I thought. However, unbeknownst to him or me, the company his car is being leased through was busily accumulating an entire file of fines, for some obscure reason waiting until now to present them to him in a tidy stack, six in total, for ZAR375 each. (This doesn’t include the two he got driving our rental car in George, where we got first caught coming from the airpor, and then again going back just in the instant where he said “wait… we should slow down somewhere around here, that’s where they got us last time.

So I was sitting here this morning with a bunch of traffic fines to pay. The agency you pay them to is called AARTO and you can set them up as a recipient through Internet Banking. For some reason our move to South Africa has promoted me to being in charge of paying bills, previously Noisette’s domain. I know vaguely how this happened – the lady from the bank (who has the posh title “private banker” but mostly distinguishes herself by not being available when we need her) was showing us the intricacies of internet banking, and Noisette was either not there or not paying attention while I, always eager to learn, committed it all to memory. I swear to you, he is better at playing “helpless spouse” than many women I know! (Just for the record, he now has eight SA traffic fines against my two; I had more of them in Kansas, but only because whenever he got caught, his German accent invariably got him off the hook by discussing unlimited speed on the Autobahn with the officer in charge).

No problem, I thought, I’ll just enter these fines quickly and be done. But of course I should have known better – this is South Africa! I got the first one paid, then pressed “submit” on the second one, just to get an error message that two identical charges could  not be paid on the same day. What now? No problem, I thought, I’ll just future date the rest of the charges. So once again I entered the 20-or-so-digit reference number, together with tomorrow’s date, but now a new error message flashed: “You cannot change the reference number for future dated payments.” Huh?

So much for checking this off my list quickly. Instead, I’ve put reminders on my calendar for the next 6 days. I will make it a ritual to start my day with a cup of coffee and a traffic fine. I’m thinking you might also be able to pay your fines at the post office, but that’s a place I usually try to avoid. I’ve also just now found a website called www.payfine.co.za, but that involves a registration process I’m sure will require a South African ID number I don’t have and a credit card fraud protection process that will make me want to rip my hair out, so I’ll rather go with what I know.Once again, a 5-minute task in another world has become a  6-day project here in South Africa.

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