AARTO starts in June but will Government be ready?

OUTA intends challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

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05/10/2019 11:54:45

AARTO starts in June but will Government be ready?

Will Government be ready to implement the AARTO demerits system in June?

Today (Sat 5 Oct) Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the start date for the AARTO law would soon be proclaimed and that AARTO will be “in full effect from June next year”.

The announcement was made at the launch of Transport Month in Gauteng, the province which hosted two of the failed AARTO pilot projects. The date must still be officially proclaimed in a gazette.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) would like to see this system working, as South Africa urgently needs effective solutions to the appalling road death toll. 

“We’re not opposed to sanctions against bad driving or the demerit point system. However, this scheme is flawed in its administrative processes, constitutionality and ability to reduce road fatalities,” says Rudie Heyneke, OUTA’s Portfolio Manager for Transport.

“OUTA opposed this law from when the Amendment Bill was published in 2015. Our engagements in Parliament and letters to the President have been ignored. OUTA will now challenge the constitutionality of the AARTO Amendment Act in court.”

OUTA believes that the AARTO Amendment Act, which includes the drivers’ demerit system, is a poorly considered piece of legislation which will be impossible to implement. It’s irrational, impractical, legally flawed and not an ideal solution. An unenforceable law will not help to address the road accident problem. In addition, the AARTO pilot projects did not have any clear effect on road safety.

OUTA believes that traffic fatalities are largely due to poor enforcement of traffic laws, a lack of traffic infringement management and a variety of problems in the management of vehicle and driver licensing. AARTO is not designed to address these problems.

“The AARTO system requires the setting up of a Tribunal, with members, the publication of regulations – which should involve public participation – and the setting up of a bureaucracy which can handle the infringement alerts and objections. It seems unlikely that Government will be ready in time,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA’s Chief Legal Officer.

The AARTO Amendment Act was passed by Parliament in March this year. Concerns raised by the public – including by OUTA – were not addressed in the final version. In July, OUTA wrote to President Ramaphosa, asking him not to sign it into law, saying that it does not withstand constitutional scrutiny. The President signed the law in August but did not proclaim the date from which it would become effective.

“OUTA is a strong promoter of road safety and effective traffic legislation. It believes that to achieve this outcome, South Africa needs effective and fair processes for the adjudication of road traffic infringements.  Such processes must be consistent with the Constitution. In addition, it is critical that South Africa’s traffic legislation is properly enforced to bring about behavioural changes in road users and to ensure safer driving and fewer fatalities on our roads,” said OUTA’s letter to the President.

OUTA’s concerns with the AARTO Amendment Act, outlined in the letter, include:

  1. Given the serious nature of the consequences that may follow an infringement, the Bill does not provide for adequate service to infringers but relies heavily on the        Post Office;

  2. The Appeals Tribunal set up by the Act provides for one tribunal staffed by a chairperson and eight other members (appointed on a part-time basis) to service the whole of South Africa. This is vastly insufficient given the number of matters that it will be required to hear. This will result in a serious backlog in the system and will ultimately violate the constitutional rights of infringers (including their rights to just administrative action and a fair hearing).

OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.