Home South African Aarto demerit system declared invalid and unconstitutional by high court

Aarto demerit system declared invalid and unconstitutional by high court

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The Pretoria High Court has ruled that the Aarto Act and the Amendment Act are inconsistent with the Constitution.

Aarto Act
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – It has taken more than two decades to implement and now South Africa’s long-anticipated Aarto demerit system for motorists has been declared invalid and unconstitutional in its current form.

The Pretoria High Court delivered its ruling on Thursday, after the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) brought the matter to court in October 2021.

“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,” Judge Basson concluded.

Outa has been vocal about the demerit act for many years now, stating that the traffic legislation is unconstitutional and that it will not help to reduce road fatalities.

The organisation believes that the legislation unlawfully intrudes upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments as they are envisioned in the Constitution.

“We are very pleased with the court’s decision,” said Outa advocate Stefanie Fick. “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.

“We are satisfied that the judgment will be sending 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.”

Fick said it was unfortunate that the government chose to ignore valid concerns and well researched input, instead pushing ahead with the amendment.

“Not only did they waste a lot of time, but also valid resources, as the Aarto roll out will have to be stopped while the act is once again amended and taken through the legislative process. Only then can it be implemented.”

The Automobile Association said it was currently studying the judgement and would release a statement shortly.

“Initial response, though, is that the AA welcomes the decision as it validates our position regarding issues we’ve raised in relation to Aarto not promoting road safety but that it is, instead, geared towards revenue collection,” the association said.

Aarto has been repeatedly delayed and in 2021 Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced a phased-in approach that would have seen the final implementation of the system taking place from mid-2022. The Aarto demerits system proposes that drivers lose a predetermined number of points for each infringement, with the accumulation of 12 points resulting in a three-month licence suspension.

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