The High Court has declared the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Act, on which the planned demerit system for traffic offences is based, unconstitutional and invalid.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) challenged the constitutional validity of AARTO and the AARTO Amendment Act, and asked the court in October last year to declare both the main Act and the amendment Act unconstitutional.
The Pretoria High Court on Thursday delivered its ruling on the constitutionality of the AARTO Act.
Judge Annali Basson found in favour of Outa and agreed with its position that the legislation unlawfully intrudes upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments envisaged in the Constitution, preventing local and provincial governments from regulating their own affairs.
The respondents in the case were the Minister of Transport, the Minister Of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Road Traffic Infringement Authority (RTIA) and the Appeals Tribunal.
The court ordered the Minister of Transport and the RTIA to pay Outa’s costs, including the costs of two counsel.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport tells Engineering News Online that the department will study the judgement and “consult with counsel. Then we’ll take it forward from there”.
Outa says in a statement that it has raised its concerns and objections about the AARTO Act and the published AARTO Amendment Act “for a number of years”, sharing its concerns with relevant authorities before the amendment Act was published.
The organisation says it believes that these pieces of traffic legislation are unconstitutional, and that it will not assist in curbing road traffic fatalities in South Africa.
In her judgment, honourable Judge Basson concluded the following: “It therefore follows in my view that the AARTO Act and the Amendment Act must be declared to be inconsistent with the Constitution in its entirety. It is therefore declared that the AARTO Act and the Amendment Acts are unconstitutional and invalid.”
“We are very pleased with the court’s decision,” says Outa accountability and governance divisions executive director Advocate Stefanie Fick.
“Outa believes that AARTO in its current format does nothing to improve road safety, nor does it reduce the scourge of road fatalities in South Africa.
“We are satisfied that the judgment will be sending government back to the drawing board.
“This time around, we trust the relevant departments will engage meaningfully with civil society to obtain our input when developing such important policies for the country.
“South Africa needs effective processes enabled by fair adjudication that complies with the Constitution.”
Fick adds that the court’s judgment points out that government is out of touch with reality.
“Not only did government waste a lot of time, but also valid resources, as the AARTO rollout will have to be stopped while the Act is once again amended and taken through the legislative process. Only then can it be implemented.”
Fick says Outa’s battle to “protect motorists” from AARTO is not yet over.
“Outa urges government to listen to the input given by organisations such as Outa when reviewing these Acts. We can assure the public that we will carefully monitor the process to ensure that any revised AARTO Acts are constitutional and truly aimed at increased road safety and saving lives.”