South Africa’s new traffic fine laws declared unlawful and unconstitutional

The Pretoria High court has ruled that the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto) and the Aarto Amendment Act are unlawful and unconstitutional.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) challenged the constitutional validity of the laws and asked the court in October 2021 to declare both the main act and the amendment act unconstitutional.

Judge Annali Basson presided and ruled in favour of Outa.

Outa said in a statement on Thursday that Basson agreed with its argument that Aarto unlawfully intrudes on the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments envisaged in the Constitution.

This prevents local and provincial governments from regulating their own affairs, Outa stated.

Aarto and the Aarto Amendment Act include a set of traffic laws governing the administration of fines and a points demerit system set to come into effect nationally from July 2022.

Parts of Aarto are already in place in the Johannesburg and Tshwane metros.

The court also ordered the transport minister and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency to pay Outa’s costs, including the costs of two counsel.

Pretoria High Court

Outa said it had raised its concerns and objections about the Aarto Act and the published Aarto Amendment Act for years, and shared its concerns with the relevant authorities before the Amendment Act was published.

Executive director of the accountability and governance divisions at Outa, Stefanie Fick, welcomed the decision.

“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,” Fick stated.

“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.”

Fick said that the court’s judgement signalled another important win for civil society, and yet again pointed out that government was “out of touch with reality”.

“It is unfortunate that government once again chose to ignore valid concerns and well-researched input, and pushed ahead with the amendment,” Fick said.

“Not only did they 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.”

But Fick added the “battle to protect motorists from the ill-conceived act” was not yet over.

“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,” Fick said.

Now read: What South Africa’s new driver’s licence card will look like

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South Africa’s new traffic fine laws declared unlawful and unconstitutional