Johannesburg Road Agency loses CCTV court appeal

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The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) has lost its bid to appeal an earlier North Gauteng High Court ruling that it cannot suspend aerial and CCTV wayleave applications.

The agency has been battling with video management company Vumacam for months over the applications, citing privacy concerns as the reason behind the failure to process the company’s applications.

The JRA insists the purpose of Vumacam’s operations “is to spy on the movements of unsuspecting citizens” and that Vumacam collects and processes personal data.

The company has dismissed the allegation, taking the matter to court for direction.

Judge Bashir Vally ruled against the agency on 20 August, saying the decision by the JRA to suspend the consideration of aerial and CCTV wayleave applications was unlawful and invalid.

In terms of the order, the JRA was required to issue Vumacam with a decision in respect of outstanding wayleave applications within seven days of the order but failed to do so, prompting the video management company to file a contempt complaint with the court.

However, the JRA sought leave to appeal from the judge, who last week dismissed the bid, saying “the case has no merits” and that there “is absolutely no prospect whatsoever of an appeal succeeding”.

The judge reasoned that: “The act of suspending the consideration of these applications is simply unlawful. The JRA has no power to refuse to do that which the law compels it to do.”

Commenting on the latest development, Vumacam CEO Ricky Croock says the High Court decision “will reset the course for the rollout of cameras and infrastructure in new areas. Our obligations to our clients and to the public have been disrupted in this process but we hope that with this absolute legal clarity, we can continue to engage with the JRA in a manner that allows us to proceed meaningfully in our efforts to curb crime.

“Our infrastructure is highly beneficial to the public, security companies, to law enforcement and even to the JRA in flagging incidents that may cause damage or harm to roads infrastructure. There are multiple, daily successes reported where our cameras both prevent crimes and assist in the apprehension of criminals.”

According to Croock, the JRA and any other party with concerns around privacy can engage with Vumacam to gain “a factual understanding of our operations and the extensive lengths we go to in ensuring privacy is protected at all times.

“It is deeply concerning that the rollout of our infrastructure was halted due to factually-incorrect information on privacy being supplied to the JRA about Vumacam.”

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