Showdown over driving error system in South Africa

The controversial Aarto law is being taken to the Constitutional Court in three lawsuits and confusion over whether the government is defending its law, civil society group Outa says.

It should be the Aarto system fully operational in July 2022, which would include the official introduction of the new traffic ticketing system. The Aarto has been rolled out nationwide in phases since June 2021, with phase 3 of the rollout scheduled to begin in January 2022.

However, in January 2022, the High Court declared the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offenses (Aarto) Act and the Aarto Amendment Act unconstitutional and void.

The court found that the Aarto had unconstitutionally interfered with the executive and legislative powers of provincial and local governments. Outa went to court in October 2021 to find both the main law and the amendment law unconstitutional.

In her ruling, Judge Annali Basson ruled in favor of Outa, agreeing with the group’s position that the legislation unlawfully interferes with the constitutional exclusive executive and legislative powers of local and provincial governments and prevents local and provincial governments from exercising their own powers to regulate matters.

Growing litigation

The Supreme Court’s verdict on unconstitutionality must now be confirmed by the Constitutional Court, the standard procedure when a law is declared unconstitutional. However, three lawsuits have now been filed in this context before the country’s highest court, says Outa.

  • Outa’s own request for confirmation;
  • The Minister for Transport and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) have filed their notices of appeal separately;
  • The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), a government agency reporting to the Minister of Transport, applied to the Constitutional Court for permission to intervene as the fifth defendant.

A full breakdown of the growing jumble of laws and related documents can be found on Outa’s website here.

The government plans to move forward

The RTIA, which is responsible for enforcing the Aarto system, said the provisions of the key Aarto law are still enforceable until the Pretoria High Court ruling is upheld by the Constitutional Court.

“Furthermore, the Minister for Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula, has indicated his intention to appeal the Pretoria High Court ruling. The RTIA Board has also passed a resolution for the agency to join the Minister to appeal the verdict,” it said.

“Therefore, the Aarto implementation will continue until the ruling on the constitutionality of the Aarto Act has undergone all due legal review procedures.”

RTIA said the main objective of the new system is a national road safety intervention aimed at changing road user behavior in a way that will curb the high number of fatalities on South Africa’s roads.

It is estimated that nearly 14,000 road users die each year as a result of violating traffic laws, it said.

Outa raised concerns and objections to the Aarto Act and the published Aarto Amendment Act for several years, and shared his concerns with the relevant authorities before the Amendment Act was published.

The organization said it believed these pieces of traffic legislation were unconstitutional and would not help curb the number of road fatalities in South Africa. It has also warned that the fight over the controversial laws is far from over.

“Outa urges the government to listen to input from organizations like Outa when reviewing these laws. We can assure the public that we will carefully monitor the process to ensure that any revised Aarto laws are constitutional and genuinely aim to improve traffic safety and save lives.”

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Showdown over driving error system in South Africa

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