AARTO Amendment Act

National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 to be introduced to Parliament “during 2020”

On Friday 3 April 2020, the Minister of Transport published his intention to introduce the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 to Parliament during its 2020 sittings, in the separate Government Gazette number 43201.

This comes after Cabinet announced the proposed introduction of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2019 to Parliament in a media statement dated 12 March 2020, shortly before the national sate of disaster came into effect.

Since the commencement of the lockdown, a flood of directions have been published in the Government Gazette, with numerous new and overriding directions being issued on a daily basis, while government decrees new provisions to address the COVID-19 pandemic, in the complete absence of normal democratic processes which are largely suspended during a national sate of disaster.

Although its publication is a democratically mandated requirement, its timing appears to be an attempt to fly the said referral to Parliament under the radar while constantly evolving COVID-19 legislation causes considerable distraction from normal legislative processes.

The National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2015 was originally published for public comment in Government Gazette 37249 of 28 January 2015, with a closing date for inputs of 28 February 2015. Although numerous draft amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations which rely on the passing of the Bill into law have been published for comment since then, no amendments to the Bill have been published since 2015.

Despite numerous efforts to obtain a copy of the 2019 and/or 2020 version of the Bill, Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has been unable to do so. On Friday 4 April, JPSA again wrote to senior officials at the Department of Transport to request a copy of the latest Bill.

Owing to the absence of an updated Bill, JPSA is unable to comment on what is contained in the 2020 version at this stage, beyond citing the long list of provisions stated in the objects of the Bill recorded in the latest Government Gazette, announcing its introduction to Parliament.

These provisions include numerous provisions applicable to number plates, microdots, the regulation of driving schools and the removal of the permissible breath and blood alcohol limit for the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol. The latter has been on the cards since the publication of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill 2012 (see Government Gazette 35528 of 18 July 2012).

Prior to the lockdown, Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula has repeatedly stated that the zero-alcohol “limit” is contained in the AARTO Amendment Act, signed by the President on 19 August 2019 and which Mbalula claims will come into effect nationally on 1 June. To date, the commencement of the AARTO Amendment Act has not been proclaimed by the President and Mbalula is not empowered to proclaim its commencement.

Whether it comes into force on 1 June or not, alcohol levels while driving are not provided for in the AARTO Amendment Act.

If the zero-alcohol level is to take effect from 1 June, this means the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 will have to be fast-tracked through Parliament when Parliament resumes its normal operations.

To achieve the 1 June implementation date, the usual democratic processes of passing the 2020 Bill through the National Assembly, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Transport, the National Council of Provinces, further public participation, back to the National Assembly and then onto the President to assent to it, sign it into law and proclaim its commencement in less than two months will undoubtedly have to be sacrificed. Whether this will pass constitutional muster is debatable.

This is more especially so considering that no-one except possibly a few elite politicians and bureaucrats appear to know what is contained in the 2020 Bill.

The objects quoted in last Friday’s Government Gazette are far from everything contemplated in the 2015 Bill. Among the other previously proposed provisions are the introduction of a “graduated driving licence system”, known as a “provisional driving license” which will see newly qualified drivers being subjected to stringent limitations for a period after passing their practical driving licence test.

Also contained in proposed regulations that followed the 2015 Bill, is the proposal to retest all current holders of driving licences every five years when they are compelled to renew their driving licence cards. The feasibility of this proposal has virtually been destroyed by the shambles created by the Gauteng pilot implementation of the online driving licence test and driving licence card renewal booking system implemented in 2019, even if the yet to be determined retesting criteria are clarified.

Only those who have followed the developments of the numerous draft legislative provisions since the Bill was first published for public comment in July 2012 will be able to make head or tail of what the enactment of the 2020 version of the Bill may mean. However, in the absence of the wording of the 2020 version, together with any amendments to the draft regulations, even those who have followed their progress are effectively in the dark.

JPSA will do its best to keep the media and the public updated on what lies ahead but can only do so if the Department of Transport is transparent.

Announcement of the introduction of the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2020 to Parliament in Government Gazette number 43201 of 3 April 2020

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National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2015 in Government Gazette 37249 of 28 January 2015

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National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, 2012 in Government Gazette 35528 of 18 July 2012

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Results of social media polls on AARTO

Thank you to those who participated in our polls on social media regarding your knowledge on AARTO and whether you want it to be implemented nationally in June 2020. Below are screen captures of the results of our Facebook and Twitter polls, together with one run by Pigspotter, who has a large follower base.

While some may say that those who participated represent a fraction of a percent of the driver population (which is 100% correct), there is a good reason for this.

You see, just like was the case with a survey conducted by the RTIA in 2017, the questions we asked were intentionally loaded. The only difference is that it is easier not to participate on social media than when you are ambushed a licensing department, while standing in a queue.

Why do we say the questions were loaded? Well, because the normal human reaction to a question that asks if you know EVERYTHING there is to know is to not want to look ignorant – or to put it bluntly – stupid.

The loaded nature of the second part of the question plays to people’s sense of reasonableness. After all, what reasonable and law-abiding motorist would not want a points-demerit system to finally come into play in South Africa, when it has been promised for so long? The first “victims” of it would be minibus taxi drivers, right?

It was not our intention to dupe anyone, just to conduct a social experiment. With that said, it seems a tad unlikely that Mr Monde Mkalipi of the RTIA was being truthful when he said “most South Africans want the AARTO Act” when the sample results below appear to indicate the exact opposite.

To be fair, no-one can make a decision either way unless they do know EVERYTHING there is to know about the AARTO Act (or anything else for that matter).

It has been our observation over more than a decade that motorists know very little about the prosecution instruments relating to road traffic offences, and even less about the AARTO Act. This is simply NOT their fault.

That said, it is our stance that the RTIA, being the government enterprise tasked with educating motorists on the AARTO Act should have made some progress in the eleven and a half years the AARTO Act has been in force in Tshwane and Johannesburg. It is apparent that it has made little, if any at all.

IF the AARTO Act does come into force nationally in June 2020, motorists are in for a nasty surprise and many who regard them as being “law-abiding citizens” (because they pay their traffic fines) will find their driving licenses being suspended quite quickly. If/when that happens, there will be an outcry, but it will be too late to do anything about it.

Please go and have a look at https://aarto.co.za so that you understand the full implications of the AARTO Act. After that, if the small percentage of you who say you know everything there is to know and want it to come into force in June still feel that way, then fine, that is your prerogative.

Facebook poll – run over 48 hours.

Twitter poll – run over 24 hours

Pigspotter’s Twitter poll – run over 24 hours

The RTIA’s 2017 survey

Below is the survey the Road Traffic Infringement Agency conducted in 2017. As you will see if you click on this link, this is the only “research paper” available on the RTIA’s website.

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