Zinta van der Linde

Did you know that putting up road signs without the necessary permission from the relevant authorities could make you guilty of a criminal offence?

In the matter of Vermeulen Verf CC & Another v DIY Superstores (Pty) Ltd & Others the two parties conducted more or less the same type of business from their respective premises which was situated opposite each other. The road separating the premises had two traffic lanes separated by a concrete traffic median. In order to enter the premises of Vermeulen Verf a prospective customer therefore would have to make a u-turn at the end of the traffic median to enter their premises on the right.

DIY Superstores however instructed a sign company to erect a “no u-turn” sign. The sign company was not a competent authority and thus not in compliance with the standards and regulations pertaining to traffic management. Section 57(10) of the National Road Traffic Act, 93 of 1996 specifically prohibits any person to display any road traffic sign on a public road unless authorised to do so by the competent authority. Any member of the public may institute action in terms of the aforementioned Act on behalf of other members of the public.

The effect of putting up the “no u-turn” sign was that of practicality. Prospective customers had to drive one kilometre further to make a u-turn and drive back to their destination. It was inevitable that the sign was illegally put up and when an act is statutorily prohibited for the protection of a particular party, then it is not necessary to allege special damages.[1] It is merely an incidental result that the illegal putting up of the “no u-turn” sign, allegedly perpetrated with ulterior motive, which meant that customers of Vermeulen Verf had to travel an extra distance without any cogent reason, and therefore this resulted in damages. What was however considered above all other factors was the effect that this road sign had on the public as affirmed by the courts in other matters preceding this one as follows:

“Where it appears either from reading of the an enactment itself or from that plus a regard to surrounding the circumstances that the Legislature has prohibited the doing of an act in the interest of any persons, the intervention of the Court can be sought by any such person to enforce the prohibition without proof of special damages.”[2]

One could argue that DIY Superstores was merely putting up the road sign as a gesture of good faith and as a civilian act due the incompetence of its municipality. The court however said that “while it is commendable…his actions remain illegal.”

The model of the story: do not take the law into your own hands. Do not perform illegal actions. Rather make an appointment with one of the attorneys at JJR Inc. for assistance.

[1] Patz Supra 1907 TS 427 at 433.

[2] Roodepoort-Mariasburg Town Council v Eastern Properties (Prop.) Ltd 1993 AD 87 at page 96.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.