A ‘motorists union’ could quickly oil wheels of justice

By: GAVIN BENNETT

Motorists in Kenya are ready to accept a lot more discipline — especially if it is fair, and enforced in a way that makes everybody’s motoring surer, safer, smoother (and ultimately swifter).

But they’ve had a bellyful of fractious and fictitious prosecution that has the opposite of all those effects, and this column’s mailbag bulges with examples of roadside experiences (and uncomplimentary adjectives) that are taxing motorists’ wallets and patience.

One of those bulges this week suggests a strictly lawful way of restoring the balance of justice: by establishing a common fund for the engagement of a team of world-class legal eagles, whose full-time brief would be to demand proper evidence to support any charge, challenge any vexatious prosecutions, sue any wrongful enforcement conduct, and take legal action against any “official” breach of process or standards (eg signposting, road marking, ditch repair, speed bump design etc).

In short, to set up a formally registered “Motorists Union” (financed by membership subscriptions) to remind the system that all the laws apply to all the parties; and to give all motorists representation and a combined voice in the “due process”.

WHIMS OF IDEALISM

These are not new ideas. Clause 39 of the Magna Carta, which is the basis of the due process principle and now the inviolable foundation of all free society, was written 800 years ago.

Motorists’ unions were established more than a century ago (not long after the invention of the motor car), first and above all to represent motoring interests and motorists’ rights. While the primary roles (and names) of “Automobile Associations” have evolved, across much of the world they remain bulwarks of class action, consumer protection and recognised hubs of policy advocacy.

This column has wondered more than once over the years why these organisations are not heard on matters of justice on Kenya’s roads. Our own AA is nearly 100 years old. Do these issues not fall within the remit of the Law Society? Is disenchantment with our roadside rigmaroles the hobbyhorse of a few miscreants or is it wholesale public indignation; is it a minor administrative defect or a severe social deformity?

While you all (policy-makers, law enforcers, consumers) decide your own answers to those questions, let’s be very clear about one thing: the aim here is not to undermine law and order; it is not to relax discipline or give more licence to misconduct.

On the contrary: the aim is to improve law and order, increase discipline and deter misconduct — but in a way that is rational, reasonable and fair; in a way which respects due process and delivers justice; in a way which not only upholds but actively demonstrates the balance between rights and responsibilities — both ways, top-to-bottom.

These tenets are not the woolly whimsy of idealism. They are the fastest, cheapest, surest and most pragmatic strategy for achieving law and order. If people feel they are not respected by the law, they will not respect the law. And vice versa.

Now. Who is best-placed, and societally most obligated, for getting that cycle of cause-and-effect moving in a positive direction?

SOURCE: DAILY NATION