The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, including the driving licence points demerit system, must be halted and the act repealed, says the Automobile Association (AA).
The AA said on Monday that serious questions about the future of Aarto, which require urgent attention, were raised by the announcement by the Road Traffic Management Agency (RTIA) at the end of October of the termination of the employment contract of its former CEO Japh Chuwe.
The AA wrote to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport last week, seeking a halt to the rollout of Aarto, the dissolution of the RTIA via a repeal of the Aarto Act, and clarification of the details as to why Chuwe’s contract was terminated.
It said the failure of the RTIA to implement a just, equitable and effective traffic enforcement system rested primarily with Chuwe but under his tenure the organisation was dysfunctional and unable to implement and administer Aarto.
The AA said Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula should, as a result of this failure, repeal the Aarto Act, thereby dissolving the RTIA and “for the time being” place traffic enforcement exclusively under the auspices of the Criminal Procedure Act.
In addition, the AA said details about the reasons for Chuwe’s dismissal must be released in full, including all material dates and events, the rand value of any financial loss to the RTIA and, should any losses have occurred, the steps the government is taking to recover these losses.
“The processes underway in relation to the ‘other senior managers’ mentioned in the RTIA’s release [announcement] should also be disclosed,” it said.
Attempts to obtain comment from Mbalula’s spokesperson were unsuccessful.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) CEO Wayne Duvenage said on Monday he does not understand the logic behind the AA’s call for Aarto to be scrapped just because of a change of senior management at the RTIA.
“If we fire someone for maladministration or corruption or whatever, the system is not hinged on one individual,” he said.
However, Duvenage said Outa has taken Aarto to court and “maybe the minister will have no choice but to scrap it and start again because there are constitutional issues that we are still waiting for judgment on”.
This is a reference to Outa applying in July 2020 for both the Aarto Act and Aarto Amendment Act to be declared unconstitutional because these acts usurp the exclusive legislative authority of both the provincial legislatures and local government.
The minister of transport and RTIA opposed the application while the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) did not oppose it and will abide by the court’s decision.
The case was heard in the Gauteng North High Court last month, with Judge Annali Basson reserving judgment.
Not the first time the AA has voiced its concerns
The AA has previously raised concerns about the implementation of Aarto, stating that while it supports the introduction of a points demerit system as envisaged in Aarto, the current regulations are more geared towards revenue collection and do not promote road safety.
“The time has come for parliament to place road safety above profit, and a significant step in that direction will be to ensure a halt to the implementation of the current Aarto Act, and to ventilate, in public, all the reasons why Mr Chuwe’s contract was terminated.
“South Africans have a right to understand the circumstances under which a CEO of an important institution such as the RTIA has been dismissed,” it said.
The RTIA, in an announcement released on October 29, said the board of directors of the agency had terminated the contract of Chuwe following “findings from a disciplinary process conducted as a result of investigations conducted by an independent firm of forensic investigators”.
It said the board further noted that these investigations emanated “from the 2019/2020 audit findings of the Auditor-General and whistle-blower reports on allegations of serious maladministration by the Registrar/CEO [Chuwe] and other senior officials”.
The AA said Chuwe had been employed by the RTIA for nearly 15 years, initially as a senior manager, and from 2010 until his dismissal as registrar and CEO.
It claimed Chuwe was “either closely adjacent to those who were accountable, or was himself directly accountable for a number of events” such as the:
Run up to and rollout of the Aarto pilot project, which was launched in 2008 for what was advised would be approximately an 18-month period.
Failure of the Aarto pilot project and the inexplicable delays in the project’s feedback and review process.
Abuses of process and disregard for the Aarto Act, which led to a judicial finding against the RTIA in the Fines 4 U case heard in the North Gauteng High Court.
Revisions of the Aarto Act, which removed key protections of administrative fairness at the core of Aarto and introduced further complications.
Contradictory and revenue-orientated revisions of the Aarto regulations, including the introduction of the Infringement Penalty Levy and the revisions to Schedule 3, which are both disproportionate and unfair, notably towards those who drive for a living.