Transport ministry to appeal Aarto Act driver demerit system ruling

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has announced that the department of transport will appeal the ruling of the Pretoria high court declaring the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Amendment Act unconstitutional and invalid.

Speaking at the release of the 2021 festive season fatality statistics at the Grasmere Toll Plaza on 18 January, Mbalula said the importance of Aarto in driving behaviour change of motorists and providing disincentives for unbecoming conduct cannot be overemphasised. He also said that the legislation is the final piece of the puzzle in the implementation of a new road traffic management system. 

Mbalula did not comment on the court ruling when it was announced a week ago. 

The Aarto system was set to penalise drivers and fleet operators guilty of traffic offences or infringements by imposing demerit points that could lead to the suspension or cancellation of licences, professional driving permits or operator cards.

Gazetted in 2020, the Aarto system was meant to be introduced in South Africa on 1 July 2021, but in addition to an interjection in the form of a delayed national roll-out date due to Covid-19, there was some opposition. 

The civil society group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) contested the constitutional validity of Aarto and the Aarto Amendment Act, and asked the court to declare both unconstitutional. 

Outa challenged the constitutional validity of Aarto on the grounds that the Acts were administratively complicated and relied on chaotic municipal systems. 

Outa said the Act being declared unconstitutional did not mean traffic crimes would no longer be prosecuted. Outa pointed out that there were other pieces of legislation in place, such as the National Roads Traffic Act and the Criminal Procedure Act, the Mail & Guardian previously reported

The Automobile Association (AA) is also a challenger, saying Aarto was drafted without sufficient care.

Mbalula said on Tuesday the Aarto Act provides an adjudication system for infringements of the rules of the road and was a deterrent to bad behaviour on the roads, but the AA argued in its statement on the court ruling that there is no evidence that the Aarto pilot project had saved a single life. 

Outa was not available for comment on the matter being taken to the appeal court at the time of publication. 

Anathi Madubela is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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Anathi Madubela
Anathi Madubela is a business journalist with a keen interest in the retail sector.

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