The contentious Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill could lead to an explosion in the scourge of bribery, is unconstitutional, and lacks consideration for public consultation, experts have warned.
President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Aarto Bill, which could result in traffic law offenders losing their licences, into law this week – but the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and the Automobile Association (AA) would have none of it.
Rudie Heyneke, portfolio manager of transport at Outa, vowed the organisation will lodge a constitutional challenge against the Act, saying it infringed on the drivers’ constitutional rights.
Their concern, he said, was that the new Act will be used to force Gauteng motorists to pay e-tolls by making it an offence to ignore road signs, which could include those listing e-toll charges.
“Outa called for the Bill to be amended due to concerns that it would not improve road safety, it is logistically cumbersome to the point of being potentially unconstitutional, and paves the way for corruption. The final version does not take into consideration Outa’s concerns,” Heyneke said.
The organisation will need public support to challenge the “irrational” law that will see motorists allocated 12 points, which would be docked in line with the severity of the traffic infringement, he said.
The Bill will now be gazetted, including its starting date.
Outa claimed Aarto pilot projects failed dismally in Tshwane and Johannesburg. Even with the amendments, the Act, as it stands, would still not fulfil its purpose of enhancing road safety.
Layton Beard, AA spokesperson, said the law was not concerned about the real challenges of road safety but more with boosting the collection of fines.
He said the whole system was infested by wide-scale corruption. It was a system that allows illegal drivers and vehicles on the road – and that this was the biggest problems leading to carnage on SA’s roads.
“We are concerned with the constitutionality of the Act with regards to the authority of the appeals process. It is not clear how exactly one could challenge a fine.
“I understand the minister (Fikile Mbalula) will clarify some issues tomorrow,” Beard said.
Howard Dembosky, Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) chair, said Aarto was the biggest constitutional breach to ever hit SA.
He said they understand the Act transformed the manner in which people will be prosecuted for road traffic infringements, removing the motorists’ right to trial before court.
“This means the drivers’ licence will be suspended, which is automatic and places the motorist with nowhere to take action when an infringement notice is issued,” Dembosky said.
But he said the organisation would not take any action against the new law as the public that they fight for “was not financially supportive of our campaigns and we are broke”.
“We cannot support people who cannot support us financially. Legal battles cost money, which we do not have,” Dembosky said.
This is how the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) law will work:
- The driver will be allocated 12 points.
- Points will be deducted from 12 based on the severity of the offence.
- The points that can be deducted range between one and six points.
- More than 12 points on an infringer will result in a three-month suspension of his or her licence.
- Three successive suspensions will lead to a cancellation of his or her driver’s licence.
Tickets served via e-mail, WhatsApp or SMS problematic
A contentious issue in the Act of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill, was the provision for the so-called “service” of infringement notices by “electronic service”.
This would allow issuing authorities like Sanral to serve infringement notices to defaulters via e-mail, WhatsApp or even SMS. The service of infringement notices through electronic means, instead of the required registered mail, would save issuing authorities and the RTIA millions of rand.
However, it will also place the onus on vehicle drivers and owners to prove that the electronic notice was received, rather than the issuing authority or RTIA having to prove that it did.
The combination of multiple infringements into a single infringement notice could mean that drivers may rack up bills of tens of thousands of rand before they even get served with an infringement notice.
The second amendment removed a driver’s right to choose to contest his fines in a lower court, and essentially declares that drivers accused of an infringement are guilty.
Those hoping to contest an alleged infringement would have to make written representation to the RTIA, and if that is unsuccessful, lodge an appeal to the RTIA’s proposed new tribunal.
According to the Act, the tribunal would have jurisdiction throughout the country and “consists of a chairperson and eight other persons appointed by the president, on a part-time basis, and on the recommendation of the minister, from among those persons nominated by the minister in response to a public call for nominations as prescribed”.
In the case of unsuccessful tribunal appeals, it reads that “any person affected by a decision of the tribunal may …
- apply to a magistrate’s court designated by the minister in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000; or
- appeal to a magistrate’s court against the tribunal’s decision.
- An appeal or review against the decision of the tribunal must be lodged with the relevant magistrate’s court within 30 days of the decision”.