There has been a slight reprieve for South African drivers as the roll-out of the controversial demerit system has been held back to between next year and 2023. The system was signed into law in September 1998 as part of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, Act 46 of 1998. This system is based on demerit systems in Australia and the UK.
The system has been delayed for several years pending, among others, a feasibility study and an assessment of technological requirements, law enforcement criteria and an analysis of human resources needed to ensure successful implementation of the system.
Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula recently announced that the controversial demerit system would take effect between next year and 2023 but the roll-out of the Aarto Act in itself would take place in several phases starting this month.
The phases will start this month with the establishment of certain service outlets to enable the eNaTIS system to collect Aarto payments among other services. Phase 2 would start in October, Transport Month and December 31 was the coming online of a number of municipalities proclaimed for the Aarto roll-out and the establishment of some service outlets and the introduction of an adjudication process online.
Phase 3 starts on January 1 to June 30 next year and this phase would deal with the inclusion of around 144 municipalities proclaimed for the Aarto roll-out. Phase 4 which is the last phase will start from July 22 next year, which would see the coming online of the demerit system and the establishment of the Aarto self-service kiosk.
Mbalula has admitted that there had been hiccups in the roll-out of Aarto. He said the department was also facing litigation but the process would go ahead as planned.
“We have taken the approach of a phased-in approach given the reasons that we give are the delays in the system that happened because of the pandemic, while at the same time challenges happened at the level of management of this entity that is driving this process. The board has suspended a lot of people because of allegations of maladministration and corruption arising from the auditor-general’s report,” said Mbalula.
Mbalula “jokingly” said the Aarto process was the responsibility of his deputy who had signed a contract with the president to ensure the rollout proceeds. He said Aarto was not being introduced to punish people but was introduced as a remedy to South Africa’s high road fatalities.
“Part of the deputy minister’s signing of things he (sic) must do by the president is this Aarto thing. I am just here to baptise this but the job is the deputy minister’s job. I think it’s an important piece of legislation that we are implementing… but we have to simplify it,” he said.
There were moves to work on a new law that would proclaim a 0% alcohol level when driving. He described those who drive drunk as “suicide bombers”. There was also a drive to reduce corruption among traffic officials who solicited bribes from those who broke the law.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse spokesperson, Stephanie Fick said the delay gave them room to convince the president to scrap the system and stick to the basics by just hiring more traffic officers.
“They should have just said they are not ready. We will write again to the president and tell him we should have the argument of the constitutionality on this thing in October,” Fick said.