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AA welcomes court dismissal of controversial Aarto Act

The Aarto Act and its Amendment Act have been ruled unconstitutional and invalid. File image.
The Aarto Act and its Amendment Act have been ruled unconstitutional and invalid. File image.

The Automobile Association (AA) has welcomed the judgment handed down by the Pretoria high court declaring the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto) and its amendments unconstitutional.

The court found that “the Aarto and Amendment Acts unlawfully intrude upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments respectively and as such, the two acts are unconstitutional”.

The court also disagreed with the minister of transport's contention that any declaration of invalidity should be suspended for 24 months while parliament rectified the acts. The court found that were this to be permitted, then the system as a whole "... would not be able to give effect to the main objective of the statute ...”

The AA says the judgment vindicates its position stated over many years that the Aarto Act was drafted without sufficient care.

“As early as a few months after the 2008 launch of the Aarto pilot project in the Johannesburg and Tshwane Metros, the shortcomings of the act became clear in practice. Attempts to rectify these shortcomings only created further issues, and now a court has found that the Department of Transport, in drafting Aarto, did not consider the fundamental issue of whether the system passed constitutional muster,” the AA noted.

The association, which has previously described Aarto as unworkable and geared towards revenue collection instead of promoting road safety, says it has been a vast waste of taxpayers' money which has done nothing to remedy SA's shocking road death rate. 

“There is no evidence that the Aarto pilot project has saved a single life,” says the AA.

The AA also says that no purpose could be served by going back to the drawing board. 

“Aarto was assented to in 1998, and its design started much earlier. The court itself has found that the deficiencies are not curable. After almost a quarter of a century of failure, the government would be wise to concede defeat,” it said.

The Association reiterated its previous stance, which is that traffic fines should be dealt with in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA), with some legislative amendments to protect motorists in cases where delivery of fines and service of summonses was not conducted in accordance with the law.

A points-demerit system, which is one of the keystones of Aarto, could, according to the AA, be implemented as part of the judicial process.

“This is how points-demerit has been implemented in other parts of the world for half a century or longer. The AA itself called for such a system as long ago as 1963, and we would be willing to work with government to help create it, just as we have assisted in developing many other aspects of traffic law,” the AA said.

Addressing one of the major consequences of the judgment, the AA says that the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (RTIA), which administers Aarto, would automatically cease to exist noting that, “the RTIA is a creation of the Aarto Act itself. Without the act, the RTIA is a nullity.

“This would be a welcome step. For years the RTIA has acted outside all reasonable bounds. The Fines 4 U court case showed how the RTIA could abuse the conflicts of interest inherent in Aarto, and the RTIA's recently-dismissed previous CEO Japh Chuwe, along with other senior managers, was implicated in serious maladministration,” the AA added.

“Aarto and the RTIA have added no value to road safety and merely provided secure and lucrative employment for a select few. As such, we welcome the court's decision as a landmark in good governance in SA,” it concluded.


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