AARTO fails on the promised “start date”

By the time transport authorities are ready for the demerit system to have a start date gazetted, OUTA’s legal challenge against the law will be in court

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01/07/2021 14:20:16

AARTO fails on the promised “start date”

Today the transport authorities confirmed what we have known for months: they are not ready to implement AARTO.

After various promises from Minister Fikile Mbalula that the AARTO (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act) demerit system would start today, it has now been pushed back to July 2022, as the authorities must still set up the infrastructure to run it.

OUTA is not surprised.

We have repeatedly pointed out the problems with this system, which is administratively complicated and relies on chaotic municipal systems. Earlier this week, OUTA pointed out that the AARTO Amendment Act still did not have a start date so could not be implemented, and even if such a date was gazetted at the last minute the system would fail as the authorities are clearly not ready. See our statement here.

It now seems likely that OUTA’s legal challenge to the constitutionality of AARTO will be heard before the amended AARTO act comes into effect. Our challenge, filed in July 2020 in the Pretoria High Court, is set down for hearing on 18 October 2021.

What seems extraordinary is the transport authorities themselves were apparently not aware of how unprepared they are. In Minister Mbalula’s budget speech on 25 May, he said: “We are on track with our target to proclaim 1 July 2021 as the effective date for the nationwide rollout of AARTO.”

Today, he had to admit that the demerit system will start a year later, in July 2022.

Even more extraordinary was the failure by Minister Mbalula and his department to explain to the public – and all those municipalities which are supposed to be implementing AARTO – that the demerit system was never going to start today. Instead, we had to wait until the much-promised “start date” today to hear instead about the administrative “rollout” plans for the next year. Did Minister Mbalula and his team only find out about this a few days ago?

This lack of planning seems particularly egregious given that in Budget 2021 the Department of Transport gives the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) R224 million this year for the “AARTO Rollout Programme” (a big increase from last year’s R88 million). Didn’t the RTIA have to provide a plan to get this funding? Did the department not read it?

There was also an inability to assess their own performance: the Minister referred to the AARTO pilot projects in Johannesburg and Tshwane as “successfully operational… although with some teething problems that were dealt with”. This is astonishing: has anyone noticed a reduction in traffic accidents and deaths in those areas in the last decade? Anyone?

And let us not overlook the RTIA’s own lack of interest in either complying with traffic laws or enforcing them. In an astonishing display in the Minister’s media briefing today, the senior RTIA staffer who attempted to demonstrate how to set up an AARTO account ended up showing that he himself has a speeding fine from more than a year ago, which he hasn’t bothered to pay.

These are the people telling us they are going to fix the road traffic toll.

“OUTA is definitely in favour of  holding to account any motorist who disobeys traffic laws, but AARTO is not the answer. Government is unable to administer the process affectively," says Advocate Stefanie Fick, Head of OUTA's Accountability Division.


A voicenote with comment from Stefanie Fick is here.

More information

More information on OUTA's criticism of AARTO is here.


Picture: Shutterstock