Aarto starts in June but will Government be ready?
Outa intends challenging the constitutionality of the new licence-demerit law
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says it will challenge the new Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act in court.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the new Aarto law, which includes the long-awaited licence points demerit system, would be in full effect from June next year.
He made the announcement on Saturday at the launch of Transport Month in Gauteng, the province which hosted two Aarto pilot projects. The exact start date must still be officially proclaimed in a gazette.
“Outa has opposed this bill from the start and is now planning a constitutional challenge to it,” Outa portfolio manager on transport Rudie Heyneke says.
He says the organisation held a workshop to consult the industry on the bill, made submissions to parliament based on that and, after the bill was passed earlier in 2019, wrote to the president twice asking him not to sign it.
Outa called for the bill to be amended due to concerns that it would not improve road safety, that it is logistically cumbersome to the point of being potentially unconstitutional, and that it paves the way for corruption.
“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.
Road deaths are recorded annually in SA
“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.
An unenforceable law will not help to address the road accident problem, says Outa, adding that the Aarto pilot projects in Joburg and Tshwane 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.
Outa is concerned that the bill does not provide for adequate service to infringers but relies heavily on the Post Office. Also, it says the Appeals Tribunal set up by the act provides for one tribunal staffed by a chairperson and eight other to service the whole of SA, which is vastly insufficient and will result in a serious backlog.
SA records about 14,000 road deaths a year and Aarto is part of government’s commitment to road safety, said President Cyril Ramaphosa at Saturday’s launch of Transport Month on the N3 in Heidelberg.
“Aarto is one of the interventions to forge a more effective and efficient link between enforcement and a transparent and fair adjudication process,” he said.
“The act promotes responsible behaviour on our roads through the creation of a demerit system, which introduces meaningful consequences for reckless, negligent and inconsiderate conduct.
Ramaphosa also unveiled the revamped and Cabinet-approved Arrive Alive programme of the department of transport.
The new programme will place road safety in the national spotlight through a 365 Days Road Safety Action Agenda to transform road user behaviour.