Western Cape puts brakes on Aarto amendment bill
The controversial proposed traffic law seeks to take away traffic offenders’ driving licences through a demerit system, and would potentially leave motorists digging deeper in their pockets as losing their licences to a draconian demerit system would render their vehicles useless.
The provincial standing committee on transport and public works rejected the proposed legislation, which the National Council of Provinces sent to provincial legislatures a few months ago.
DA MPL and chairman of the committee Nceba Hinana said problems had already started showing in the system.
“It has so far been piloted, quite problematically, in Tshwane and Joburg metropolitan municipalities," Hinana said. "The amendment bill, however, proposes a number of changes to the act,”
The Aarto Act of 1998 was implemented to ensure greater compliance with traffic laws and regulations by delegating the adjudication of traffic offences to an autonomous body and creating a merit-based system.
The bill, which was approved by the National Assembly in 2018, will now be sent back to the NCOP by the various provincial legislatures.
“I call on the Upper House of Parliament to reject this bill, " Hinana said, "With more than 10 000 public comments received, along with five public hearings held during February and the majority rejecting this bill, it cannot be supported.”
He said a major concern highlighted by the public was the administering of finances at a national, rather than municipal level.
According to the demerit system, every motorist starts with zero points and the maximum permissible number of points is 12.
“In other words, a motorist is allowed to drive until he/she has 12 points," Hinana said. "Every point exceeding 12 points results in a three-month suspension of their licence, according to the draft legislation."
A disqualified motorist must immediately hand in any driving licence or professional driving permit to the nearest municipality, and the prescribed operator card from the vehicle in applicable cases. Disqualified drivers may not apply for a driving licence, professional driving permit or operator card during the disqualification period.
“A merit-based system may be a good idea in theory," Hinana said, "but it risks the livelihoods of many South Africans who would be forced to drive without licences.”
In its submission to Parliament, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse said it supported the purpose of the Aarto legislation, but was, however, concerned about the Aarto system having been piloted in Joburg and Tshwane and having failed. Something more was needed, as fatalities in the piloted areas had not decreased.
Outa suggested visible policing to be a solution to the problem; it felt that the amendment bill was more concerned about income generation than about road safety.
Promoting road safety
Lauren Olinsky, managing director of Durban-based Cancom, which administered fines on behalf of its clients, said in her submission that she agreed with the main purpose of Aarto: to promote road safety.
“With the current magisterial districts issuing traffic fines either via the service providers or with their own systems, Cancom was faced with different sets of rules and different legal interpretation for each municipal district,” she said.
The SA National Taxi Council previously said it was not opposed to the legislation.