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AARTO: Valid and constitutional, but still impractical
Today the Constitutional Court ruled that the AARTO legislation is constitutionally valid and thus legal, dismissing OUTA’s legal challenge to the law.
OUTA had brought an application calling on the Concourt to confirm the Pretoria High Court’s judgment of November 2022 that the AARTO legislation was unconstitutional and invalid. The disputed legislation is the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act of 1998 (AARTO) and the AARTO Amendment Act of 2019, which brought certain aspects of the AARTO Act into effect.
The Concourt judgment was written by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and was unanimous.
The Concourt disagreed with OUTA’s position that the legislation unlawfully intrudes upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments envisaged in the Constitution, preventing local and provincial governments from regulating their own affairs. The Concourt did not make a costs order, which means that the parties will pay their own legal costs.
OUTA has been vocal for many years about AARTO, which we believe will not effectively address the epidemic of road traffic fatalities and injuries.
“We are disappointed with the Concourt’s decision but abide by the apex court’s ruling. OUTA believes that measures to improve road safety and reduce fatalities are urgently needed. However, we don’t believe that the AARTO Acts will achieve this, it’s just not practically possible. South Africa needs effective processes enabled by fair adjudication that comply with the Constitution,” says Advocate Stefanie Fick, OUTA Executive Director.
OUTA is of the opinion that the AARTO legislation results in troublesome and complex issues for most motorists and motor vehicle owners, and is concerned that this legislation will not achieve the principal purpose of enhancing road safety.
OUTA believes that improving road safety is crucial and that any legislation or initiatives enhancing safety must be supported. OUTA however does not believe that AARTO will be the silver bullet guaranteeing the implementation of the National Road Safety Strategy and the achievement of the targets of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.
“The AARTO Amendment Act with higher penalties, tedious and expensive procedures to be followed by the public and the total lack of prescription on visible policing will have little or no effect on improving road safety in South Africa,” says Fick.
OUTA is of the opinion that the AARTO practical challenges are largely due to poor enforcement, a lack of administrative discipline when it comes to traffic infringement management and a variety of problems in the management of vehicle and driver licencing.
“Merely legislating policy doesn’t make it rational or workable. Governments often suffer from the false belief that if the laws and regulations are in place, the people will simply comply. Irrational and or impractical laws and a lack of transparency results in pushback from society, making systems ungovernable. The sad reality is that government begins to suffer from a crisis of legitimacy when it cannot exercise its power over people by effectively enforcing its legislation and policies,” says Fick.
A soundclip with comment by OUTA’s Advocate Stefanie Fick is here.
More information on OUTA’s case, including OUTA's criticism of AARTO and the court papers is here.
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