Incoming driving laws to bring ‘bite’ to traffic fines in South Africa

South Africa has a relatively low number of traffic prosecutions because the judiciary does not seem to regard road transgressions as serious offences, says Zola Majavu, chair of the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).

Speaking to TimesLive, Majavu said this lack of severity around traffic offences, combined with fewer boots on the ground and traffic police, means the country is seeing fewer traffic prosecutions than it should.

“We’re fighting with the prosecution authority because when people make representations they invariably withdraw those cases because they don’t seem to regard this as a serious issue that must be tackled with vim and vigour. That’s our first problem.

“Second, the laws we have do not bite enough. The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act is going to bring about serious consequence management.”

Majavu reiterated that government plans to move forward with the new Aarto system, despite a recent High Court ruling which found that the legislation is unconstitutional.

He said that the Aarto will harmonise existing traffic authorities into a single body, allowing for a more uniform approach instead of the piecemeal system that has led to five different traffic bodies in Gauteng alone.

“The harmonisation process is before cabinet. If the cabinet approves it, you’re going to have one, single traffic law enforcement. The municipalities have bought into that.”

Aarto 

Much of the RTMC’s plans to more strictly enforce traffic offences in South Africa rests on its appeal to reinstate the Aarto Act.

On 13 January, the Pretoria High Court ruled that South Africa’s Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act and the Aarto Amendment Act are unconstitutional.

The ruling 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.

The RTIA, which is responsible for the enforcement of Aarto system, said that the provisions of the principal Aarto Act are still enforceable until the Pretoria High Court ruling is confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

“In addition, the minister of Transport Mr Fikile Mbalula, has pronounced on the intention to appeal the Pretoria High Court Judgment. The RTIA Board of Directors has also taken a resolution for the Agency to join the Minister to appeal the Judgment,” it said.

“Therefore, Aarto implementation continues until the judgment on the constitutionality of the Aarto Act has been subjected to all due legal review processes.”


Read: This calculator shows you how much it really costs to drive in South Africa

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Incoming driving laws to bring ‘bite’ to traffic fines in South Africa