File picture: Danie van der Lith / African News Agency (ANA).

JOHANNESBURG - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced over the weekend that the start date for the Aarto demerit system would be announced shortly and that the system was expected to be “in full effect” from June 2020.

The announcement was made at the launch of Transport Month at the N3 Weighbridge in Heidelberg on Saturday, October 5, where President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the act was one of the interventions aimed at forging a “more effective and efficient link between enforcement and a transparent and fair adjudication process,” while introducing “meaningful consequences for reckless, negligent and inconsiderate conduct.”

However, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has expressed strong doubt that the government will be ready to implement Aarto by the middle of next year, and plans to challenge the constitutionality of the new law.

“We’re not opposed to sanctions against bad driving or the demerit point system,” said Outa’s portfolio manager for transport Rudie Heyneke.

“However, this scheme is flawed in its administrative processes, constitutionality and ability to reduce road fatalities.”

“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,”Heyneke added.

The organisation has labelled Aarto as a “poorly considered piece of legislation which will be impossible to implement”.

“It’s irrational, impractical, legally flawed and not an ideal solution. An unenforceable law will not help to address the road accident problem. In addition, the Aarto pilot projects did not have any clear effect on road safety,” Outa said in a statement.

The organisation added that it believed road carnage was mostly as a result of poor enforcement of traffic laws as well as a lack of traffic infringement management and numerous problems in the management of driver and vehicle licencing. 

Too reliant on the Post Office

One of Outa’s main concerns with the Aarto Act is that, given the serious consequences involved for drivers, the bill doesn’t provide for “adequate service” to infringers, but rather relies heavily on the Post Office. 

Furthermore, the Appeals Tribunal stipulated by the act provides for one tribunal staffed by a chairperson and eight other members - and this will result in a serious backlog in the system, ultimately violating the constitutional rights of infringers, Outa said.

“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,” Outa’s chief legal officer Stefanie Fick added.

Continued opposition misinformed: Zwane

However, in August the Chairperson of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Transport, Mosebenzi Zwane, labelled the opposition to Aarto as “misinformed”, African News Agency reported.

Zwane said he had noted objections and concerns by various interest groups, subsequent to the signing of the Aarto Act. He said that opposition to Aarto was misinformed, as detailed participatory processes were undertaken where concerns raised were given due consideration.

"Both Houses of Parliament undertook comprehensive and exhaustive participatory processes after the Bill was tabled. Similar processes were undertaken by the government. Stakeholders had ample opportunity to influence the processes," Zwane said.

"Opposition to Aarto is misinformed, especially that people are scrambling at issues they want reviewed. No stakeholder was closed outside of the public participation process, and all input was taken into consideration during the process of finalising the Bill," he added.

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