An announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa this coming Saturday, that the traffic points demerit system will take effect on April 1, could spark at least two court applications to stop the countrywide roll-out.
Ramaphosa signed into law the Aarto Amendment Act on August 13, after it was approved by the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces with the support of all provinces, except the Western Cape.
The announcement about the implementation date has been outstanding.
According to a statement, Ramaphosa will give the keynote address at the official launch of the October Transport Month campaign on Saturday, during a function at the Heidelberg weigh bridge on the N3 highway.
The function will be attended by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, several MECs, senior government officials from all provinces and “key stakeholders including the private sector, transport industry, motorcycling association, the religious and interfaith fraternity and family members of those who lost their lives to road crashes”, according to the statement.
It refers to Ramaphosa’s signing of the Act as “paving the way for the ushering of a new regime in driver and road user behaviour for the country.
“At its full implementation, the Aarto Act will discourage bad and persuade good road user and road traffic behaviour by providing a scheme for road traffic contraventions and facilitate the adjudication of road traffic infringements.”
The statement doesn’t indicate whether the implementation date will be announced at the event and Monde Mkalipi, spokesperson of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), that administers the Act, wouldn’t confirm it.
Moneyweb has however been told that it is definitely on the menu and Mkalipi confirmed that such an announcement is expected “very, very soon”.
Less optimistic about the prospects of Aarto to improve road safety is the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).
“We are at an advanced stage of preparing a court application to stop the implementation,” Outa Portfolio Manager for Transport Rudie Heyneke told Moneyweb.
He says Outa’s legal advisors however advised that it will be premature to bring an application before an implementation date has been announced.
Heyneke says Outa is extremely sceptical about the ability of stakeholders, including municipalities as issuing authorities, to comply with Aarto’s huge administrative burden and failure to do so will result in the denial of road users’ constitutional rights to, among other things, state their case.
Statistics show that a large percentage of those accused of contravening traffic laws want to defend themselves, Heyneke says.
Outa however questions the independence of those who will consider representations made by motorists under Aarto. “They will basically be working for the RTIA,” he says.
“Under Aarto it will take years before a matter can be challenged in court.”
Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister for Transport Chris Hunsinger says the party also decided in principle to oppose the Act in its current form.
He says after Ramaphosa signed the bill, the DA wrote to him about several matters of concern. It will be a pity if government nevertheless moves forward with implementation, he says.
The DA is also concerned about the ability of motorists to exercise their rights under Aarto and the state of readiness of municipalities, the first cog in the Aarto wheel, which will play a crucial role as issuing authorities.
He says Aarto will completely change the income stream of municipalities and they are unprepared for it.
Hunsinger adds that a lot of detail regarding Aarto will only be clear once the accompanying regulations have been promulgated. That cannot happen without prior public participation, he says.
Mkalipi confirms that the regulations is one of three key components that have to be in place before the system can be implemented. Officials are currently working full steam to complete the regulations and publish the for public comment, he says.
The other outstanding matters are the establishment of the appeals tribunal and the National Contravention Register that will contain data relating to demerit points.
Mkalipi confirms that April 1 will be the ideal implementation date, since it is also the beginning of the new financial year in government. It is however crucial that these three matters be in place first, he says.
The Aarto pilot projects that have been in operation in Johannesburg and Tshwane for several years have been widely criticised as deeply flawed. The points demerit system was not part of this implementation.
This system would see motorists incur demerit points for the contravention of traffic laws. Once a motorist has accumulated 12 points his/her driver’s licence would be suspended. After the third suspension the motorist could lose his/her licence.