JOHANNESBURG – Following the questions posed
by News24 and the Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa regarding the
national rollout of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences
(AARTO) Act, 46 of 1998, justice Project South Africa (JPSA) also wishes to
weigh in on the subject.
JPSA has supported the idea of the
implementation of a points-demerit system in South Africa from the onset and is
also highly supportive of the decriminalisation of minor road traffic
infringements, as well as the properly defined procedures and timeframes which the AARTO Act introduces.
We have noted that, subsequent to the Deputy
Minister of Transport announcing last year that the AARTO Act would be rolled
out nationally from 1 April 2016, this has not happened and the Minister of
Transport has, in her budget
speech before Parliament on 10 May 2016, appealed to the Portfolio
Committee to expedite the processing of AARTO Amendment Bill, 2015 before
It is not clear to us what makes the promulgation of
the AARTO Amendment Bill, 2015 essential to the national rollout of AARTO while
the current version of the Act is regarded to be good enough for the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
While IT systems play a significant role in the
AARTO system, practically ALL of the difficulties
which have been experienced with respect to the so-called “pilot implementation”
of the AARTO Act in the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane since it was
promulgated to be in force from 1 July 2008 in Tshwane and 1 November 2008 in
Johannesburg; have arisen out of ineptitude and/or unwillingness of the
authorities to abide by the provisions of the Act.
No “pilot” of anything should have taken eight years
to still not find a way to a national rollout and the endless false starts
which have typified this implementation have not assisted anyone. The AARTO Act
“pilot” was announced as coming to an end in 2009, and every year since then
and the national rollout of the Act and the points-demerit system has also been
announced each and every year since then.
The differences between the Criminal Procedure Act
and the AARTO Act are marked and the significant confusion amongst motorists
has been directly caused by the simultaneous existence of two completely
different sets of procedures for prosecuting road traffic infringements in
While it is arguable to what extent the introduction
of a points-demerit system will have on altering the driving behaviour of a
large proportion of South African motorists, there can be no doubt that not
having one will have no effect whatsoever. Road safety is a holistic science
and as such, requires a number of components to be utilised. A points-demerit
system can never be viewed as a “silver bullet” to South Africa’s appalling
road safety record, but that does not mean that one should not be implemented
as a matter of urgency.
The centralisation of all “fines” issued by traffic
authorities is also a significantly useful tool to everyone concerned,
including the public and authorities. As things stand, members of the public
can query their AARTO infringement notice/s status on the aarto.gov.za website
or by making contact with the RTIA, regardless of whether that infringement notice
was issued by the JMPD, the TMPD, the Gauteng Traffic Police or the National
Traffic Police – within the confines of the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane.
Conversely, they have to either make contact with
traffic authorities through whose jurisdictions they have passed or consult
various privately run websites in order to establish whether they have “traffic
fines” anywhere else in the country and from any of well over 200 traffic issuing
authorities in South Africa, most of which do not contract their traffic fines
databases out to these private websites.
The net result is that many motorists discover that
they have had a warrant of arrest issued against their particulars if they
happen to stray back into such a jurisdiction and are stopped in a roadblock.
While detractors of JPSA deliberately choose to
misinterpret our stance on the fact that law enforcement agencies are legally
obliged to comply with provisions of legislation which apply to them as being “anti-law
enforcement”, nothing could be further from the truth.
Justice Louis Brandies (US Supreme Court Judge
1856-1941) said: “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. …
Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds
contempt for the law: it invites every man to become a law unto himself, it
Sadly, few of our friends in government and the various traffic law enforcement
agencies have any regard for what Justice Brandies said.
JPSA is and remains committed to the national
rollout of a points-demerit system for driving licenses and a better procedural
way of enforcing road traffic laws which is clearly understood and complied
with by all involved. The AARTO Act is intended to achieve these objectives.
We do however find ourselves having to agree with
our counterparts in the AA and elsewhere in civil society in calling for the
Department of Transport “to take significant steps to ensure [that] the system
is implemented, or concede to the public that it probably will never
materialise”, except in the Cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, which appear to be viewed as a prime picking ground for traffic fines since they generate more than 6 million traffic fines a year.