Residents of Johannesburg and Pretoria can breath a huge sigh of relief after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that millions of traffic fines issued under the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act since 2008 must be scrapped where authorities did not comply with the act’s conditions.
The ruling comes after the high court on Friday confirmed traffic authorities have to abide by the letter of the Aarto Act, and ordered that the fines before the court must be cancelled.
The same failures would apply to millions of traffic fines issued in Johannesburg and Pretoria since 2008.
Some have been paid by vehicle owners to avoid a block on their vehicle and driver’s licence renewals, while others are still pending and recorded against the alleged transgressor on the National Contravention Register (NCR), says Fines4U owner Cornelia van Niekerk.
In 2015/16 the Joburg metro police issued 5.3 million Aarto Infringement Notices and the Tshwane metro police 1.1 million.
Van Niekerk contends that a large percentage of these fines would be affected by the same failures. The ruling in favour of the residents comes after Fines4U approached the court on behalf of its client, Audi Johannesburg.
Van Niekerk has called upon the road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) that has been tasked by the legislature with administering Aarto to cancel all similarly affected fines without delay.
The representations made by Fines4U in court were all on identical grounds, namely that the RTIA failed to comply with the Aarto Act with regard to, among others, the timelines for the serving of the notices.
This was not disputed by the RTIA. It, in fact, blamed the post office for its failure to deliver the notices within the given time limits. In an earlier Aarto implementation progress report upon which the court relied heavily, it was, however, stated that the RTIA is inadequately funded to roll out Aarto successfully.
Judge Bill Prinsloo rejected the RTIA’s argument that the outcomes of representations did not affect any rights and the matter could only be taken on review when an enforcement letter had been issued, which was not the case in regard to these matters.
He accepted Fines4U’s argument that the RTIA’s “compliance with the prescribed periods of notification is obligatory and not a discretionary matter”.
Prinsloo found that the RTIA, “represented by the representation officers, acted beyond their statutorily conferred powers by not following the Aarto process and that they offended the constitutional principle of legality”.
Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga recently said Tshwane and Johannesburg were considering withdrawing from Aarto.
They are the only two cities where the act has been implemented on a trial basis and has been plagued with problems.
The RTIA has been ordered to pay Fines4U’s costs.