Court rules that South Africa’s controversial new driving laws are unconstitutional

 ·13 Jan 2022

The Pretoria High Court has found that South Africa’s Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act and the Aarto Amendment Act are unconstitutional.

This comes after civil society group the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) approached the court in October 2021 to declare both the main act and the amendment act unconstitutional.

In her ruling, Judge Annali Basson found in favour of Outa and agreed with the group’s 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.

Outa raised its concerns and objections about the Aarto Act and the published Aarto Amendment Act for a number of years and shared its concerns with relevant authorities before the Amendment Act was published.

The organisation said it believes that these pieces of traffic legislation are unconstitutional and will also not assist with the curbing of road traffic fatalities in South Africa.

“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,” Basson said in her ruling.

Outa’s executive director of accountability and governance Stefanie Fick said the group was very pleased with the court’s decision and that the 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 the 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,” she said.

Fick said the battle to protect motorists from the ill-conceived Act is not yet over, and it expects the government to appeal the ruling.

“Outa urges the 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.”

The Aarto system was expected to become fully operational in July 2022, which would include the official introduction of the new traffic demerit system. The Aarto has been rolled out nationally in phases since June 2021, with phase 3 of the rollout scheduled to begin in January 2022.

Read: South Africa’s strict new driving laws coming in July

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