The Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that the controversial Act on the Administrative Authorization of Road Traffic Offenses, better known as Aarto, is constitutional and valid – and therefore legal.
However, the pressure group Outa says that this law is hopelessly impractical “and cannot effectively tackle the epidemic of road traffic deaths and injuries”.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision, but stick to the court’s ruling,” says Adv. Stefanie Fick, executive director of Outa.
Outa challenged the Aarto Act of 1998 in court, as well as the Amendment Bill of 2019. The pressure group even won a victory when the Pretoria High Court found in January last year that Aarto was unconstitutional and invalid. The court found that the legislation infringes on the executive powers of the provincial and local government.
Outa wanted the Constitutional Court to validate this order and it would then force parliament and the minister of transport to rewrite or replace the legislation.
Outa has consistently argued that the Aarto legislation “results in troublesome and complicated issues for most motorists and vehicle owners”.
The pressure group is also concerned that the legislation will not lead to any improvement in road safety.
“Outa believes that measures to improve road safety and reduce fatalities are urgently needed. However, we do not believe that Aarto will achieve this; it’s just not practically possible. South Africa needs efficient processes that are made possible by fair adjudication and that comply with the Constitution.”
The Minister of Transport welcomed the ruling and said it confirmed her position that Aarto is “essential legislation that furthers our efforts to stop the carnage on our roads”.
“Our position that Aarto is part of the regulation of road safety has been confirmed by the highest court in the country,” says Min. Sindisiwe Chikunga.
Chikunga says the government has been waiting 25 years to implement the law.
“With this judgment paving the way for the implementation of Aarto, we will soon jump to implement it nationwide.”
The minister wants to soon mobilize the necessary capacity at the Road Traffic Infractions Agency (RTIA) so that the department can continue with its rollout plans at municipalities nationwide.
“We will also move quickly with the implementation of the points system, an important cornerstone of the Aarto Act which is intended to change motorists’ behavior on our roads.”
Outa says that although he will respect the court’s ruling, he is still of the opinion that the Aarto Amendment Act will bring about little or no change. The amendment law provides for “higher penalties, tedious and expensive procedures that must be followed by members of the public and has deficient directives on visible policing”.
“Outa is of the opinion that Aarto’s practical challenges are largely due to poor enforcement, a lack of administrative discipline when it comes to managing traffic violations and a variety of problems in the management of vehicle and driver’s licenses,” says Fick.
“Mere legislative policy does not make it rational or workable. Governments often suffer from the false belief that if the laws and regulations are already in place, people will simply comply. The sad reality is that the government begins to suffer from a crisis of legitimacy when it cannot exercise its power over people by effectively enforcing its legislation and policies.”