The controversial AARTO Act has kept many a motorist awake at night over the last couple of months. Like a poltergeist haunting the darkest corners of your room, making a ton of noise and judging the way you drive.
Now, the dreaded day has finally arrived. The guillotine has dropped.
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport has approved the final amendments to the AARTO (Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences) Bill, which will now go to the National Assembly for signoff before being passed into law.
The amendment bill has been mired in controversy since day one. The prospect of it being signed into law has had civil society groups and legal experts up in arms, stating that the bill is unlikely to have the intended impact on SA driving habits and that it will only pave the way for further, more rampant corruption.
A recent AARTO pilot project run in Pretoria and Johannesburg showed very little change in road user behaviour, and has only further served to cement the opinion that the endeavour is destined for failure, as with so many other SA government schemes.
It has been stated that the bill, in its current form, will not only prove to be ineffective and open the doors for bribery and extortion, but is also administratively burdensome and a direct violation of our constitutional rights.
For those who haven’t heard – you’re about to have your human rights manhandled willy-nilly by the government – and if at all possible, it gets even worse.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognise that the AARTO Bill is designed to generate revenue for the state, and is far less concerned about actual road safety.
Here are some of the biggest changes:
The implementation of a new demerit system, with 1-6 points allocated per offence. When you’ve accumulated more than 12 points, your driving licence will be suspended. Three suspensions and the licence will be terminated.
As previously reported by CompareGuru, the DA has stated that under AARTO the non-payment of e-tolls is not classified as a traffic infringement, but rather as disobeying a road sign. This means that once the Act comes into effect, any driver passing 12 e-toll gantries a day could potentially lose 12 points in a single fell swoop and have their driver’s licence suspended for a year.
Failure to pay your traffic fines could lead to a block on obtaining further driving and vehicle licences or licence renewals.
Bear in mind that these fines will be issued according to the new fault-based system – meaning that your guilt is be pre-determined, and you will no longer be able to contest it. Issuing authorities will never have to prove their allegations and you will no longer be allowed to appear in court to challenge the prosecution.
You will no longer have the right to legal representation.
Furthermore, in the past, documents had to be delivered by registered mail. Authorities will now be permitted to serve documents via email, as well as send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS. In the past, there was even talk of fines being sent via Facebook. It will automatically be assumed that this communication was received – no more “I didn’t receive the letter” excuses.
Overall, AARTO is a system that is designed to work in a country with minimum corruption. In South Africa, it’s almost destined to be abused by crooked traffic officials.
With the government running roughshod over the Constitution, it may not be long until every vehicle on the road is operated by an unlicensed driver.
AARTO, in South Africa, could very well prove to be a total circus.