Serious doubt has been cast over the effectiveness and efficiency of the systems and processes that support the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act by the experiences of a Pretoria motorist.
The Aarto Act was implemented on July 1 but the points demerit system and driver rehabilitation programmes of the act will only be introduced from July 1 next year.
A Pretoria motorist, who did not want to be named, said she was handed a traffic fine by a Tshwane Metro traffic officer for not coming to a dead stop at a stop street.
The woman said the back of Aarto infringement notice lists a number of different options motorists have to pay the fine, including paying it at post offices, some supermarket chains such as Checkers, Shoprite and Spar, and by using the online platforms of FNB, Standard Bank, Absa, Nedbank or payCity.
She said she tried unsuccessfully to pay the fine on several occasions using the online platforms of Absa, PayFine and payCity.
The woman said she was unable to pay the fine using these online platforms because they indicated that they were unable to pick up the infringement notice reference number.
She then went to two different post office branches on five different occasions in an attempt to pay the fine but was told each time by the counter official that the traffic fine payment system was offline.
In desperation, she then went to three different Spar stores in Pretoria’s eastern suburbs and the Shoprite Checkers store in Brooklyn Mall, but was informed by staff that they did not have a facility that enabled shoppers to pay traffic fines.
The woman said the Aarto infringement notice does not state that traffic fines can only be paid at some Spar, Checkers and Shoprite stores.
“I’m trying to be a law abiding citizen but it has been impossible to pay the fine.
“Now I’ve lost the discount because the fine has not been paid within the specified time period within which the discount is available,” she said.
“If the Aarto demerit system was in place, I would have received two demerit points for the traffic offence plus a further demerit point for not paying the fine on time.”
Christine Wu, managing executive of customer value management at Absa Retail and Business Bank, said that as a digitally-led organisation that aims to cater for an ever-evolving customer base, Absa customers can conveniently pay their traffic fines online to a range of municipalities in South Africa.
Wu said payments can easily be made under the “pay traffic fines” section on Absa Online, adding that customers simply need their traffic fine reference number to expedite payment.
“While it is difficult to comment on the specifics of this particular matter without the actual detail, we can confirm there has been no downtime with regards to traffic payments from Absa Online,” she said.
Road Traffic Infringement Agency’s response
Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) spokesperson Monde Mkalipi said the RTIA system had not experienced any downtime or been offline in the time period when the woman attempted to pay the fine.
However, Mkalipi said parts of the country are experiencing load shedding, hence some of the Driving Licence Testing Centres do experience outages affecting their connection with eNaTIS (the electronic National Administration Traffic Information System).
“If the NaTIS is off-line, no payments will be able to be made on any of the online platforms attached to third party platforms,” he said.
A Spar spokesperson said that as at March 31, 815 of its 992 stores had a facility that enabled motorists to pay their traffic fines.
The spokesperson agreed the Aarto infringement notice could be misleading because some Spar stores do not offer this service.
“We will contact Aarto and request that they alter their infringement notices to read ‘selected’ Spar stores. We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” she said.
A Shoprite spokesperson said more than 1 100 Shoprite, Checkers and Usave stores throughout South Africa are able to process traffic infringement payments for notices indicating EasyPay, PAY@ or that have the Shoprite or Checkers logo printed on the back of the notice.
The spokesperson said that once the payment has been processed, the customer’s receipt will also include a payment reference number should it be required in future.
Shoprite requested further details from the motorist to allow them to investigate this customer’s experience at the particular store.
A store manager at the Checkers in Brooklyn Mall subsequently phoned Moneyweb and confirmed that traffic fines can be paid in the store but that some staff were unaware of this facility.
The manager apologised for any inconvenience caused to the motorist.
Mkalipi stressed that the RTIA does not issue or capture traffic fines.
“Issuing authorities, municipalities, must capture the fines they issue to motorists. The RTIA only comes in once the fine has been captured on the eNaTIS system,” he said.
Mkalipi said the RTIA assists motorists in managing and resolving their traffic fines.
He said motorists have elective options under the Aarto Act, which are to:
Make a representation to dispute a traffic infringement;
Nominate a new driver;
Apply for revocation of an enforcement order;
Arrange to pay for infringements in instalments; or
Elect to be tried in court.
Mkalipi added that in such cases, the motorist can apply for representation to enjoy the 50% discount that is catered by the Aarto Act due to the fine not being captured by the issuing authority.
Help is at hand …
“If the RTIA can have a copy of the infringement, it will be in a position to assist the infringer,” he said.
Mkalipi recommended that motorists register and query fines on www.aarto.gov.za, which will also enable them to monitor the allocation of new infringement notices on their profile.
Mkalipi said that if a notice issued in person next to the roadside has not been captured on the National Contravention Register, the infringer must “make contact with the applicable issuing authority with a request to capture the infringement notice concerned”.
Moneyweb suggested it was unfair to expect motorists to have to try and force an issuing authority to do its job and that this may interfere with the rights of road users.
Mkalipi said the RTIA would appreciate receiving the details of the issuing authority so it can follow up on this complaint.
“The RTIA will definitely contact the issuing authority to establish the cause of the problem. We will also invest more time to help motorists to benefit from the rights and options contained in the Aarto Act. It should be recalled that the role of the RTIA is to be an independent arbiter between the road user and issuing authority.”
Mkalipi added that no motorist will incur demerit points if due legal process has not been followed.
“In situations where the road users feel aggrieved by the outcomes of the RTIA adjudication process, the motorist has the right to elevate [their] representation submission to the Aarto Appeals Tribunal,” he said. “The rights of the motorist remain protected.”