Organisation says act will change very little and is there to make money, not protect road users.
THE ORGANISATION Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) is set to challenge the government’s proposed regulations to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Amendment Act that will prevent motorists with e-toll debts from renewing their car licences.
The organisation said it has submitted its comments on the proposed regulations, adding that it was ready to challenge the matter in court if the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula does not “go back to the drawing board”.
“Our legal team studied the proposed regulations, and it is clear that this Act will change very little when it comes to road safety. It is Outa’s informed view that the intention of the legislation and the regulations is to make money and not protect road users. It may even open the door for more corruption in the form of bribes,” says Andrea Korff, senior legal project manager at Outa.
She said the Aarto pilot project has been partially in use in the Joburg and Tshwane metros but hasn’t helped in ensuring a decrease in road incidents and fatalities or more compliance to the law.
“The only result seems to be a worrying increase in lawlessness as well as mortality rates due to road accidents,” Korff said.
“If increased road safety was the goal, why is the proposed administrative process and system of the amendment act aimed at generating money through a system that is complicated, cumbersome and definitely not user friendly? This administrative system will force citizens to rather pay the fines instead of following due process, whether guilty or not.”
Outa’s executive director of accountability, advocate Stefanie Fick, said: “We believe that these fatalities are largely due to the poor enforcement of traffic laws, a lack of traffic infringement management and a variety of problems in the management of vehicle and driver licensing.”
Fick added that it was highly unlikely that Aarto would be implemented successfully, judging by the various problems irate motorists frequently experience at traffic departments countrywide.
“Look at the current chaos with the renewal of driver’s and vehicle licences in Gauteng. We doubt that the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), who will administer Aarto, will do any better.”
“Over the last three years, Outa has actively participated in all the stages of public input into the drafting of the Aarto Amendment Act. We attended workshops, presented our own workshop and attended public hearings across the country. In addition to this, we made submissions to Parliament and even wrote to the president twice.
“We also launched a Constitutional Court challenge against the Aarto Act as well as the Aarto Amendment Act.”
In a statement sent to Independent Media, Gauteng MEC for Road and Transport Jacob Mamabolo said: “We reject the proposed Aarto regulations which is another attempt to bring back the e-tolls system in our province. We are of the strongest view that the freeway network that is being tolled, services the national economy and the Southern African Development Community as well as the international economy. It is therefore not fair to expect the people of our province to carry the burden.”
Department of Transport spokesperson Ayanda Allie-Paine said the department will not be commenting on the e-tolls, adding they were awaiting Cabinet’s announcement on the matter.
Lwando Mahlasela, a spokesperson for Sanral, said the agency would not be able to respond until Mbalula makes a “public pronouncement” on the e-toll matter.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga also refrained from commenting, saying the province had not received any communication regarding the matter.
“As a result, we can’t comment. The matter is in the national sphere of government,” said Mhaga.
Political analyst Dr Metji Makgoba has accused the ANC of forcing the e-tolls because they want to raise revenue as the state entities are cash-strapped.
“The ANC pushes aggressive capitalism that seeks to clean the last cent from the working class. Since their state entities are poorly capacitated, they need to raise revenue somewhere. In a neo-liberal system, revenue normally comes from the financialisation of basic services such as roads, healthcare and education. Usually, the working class find themselves paying for something that would ideally be free if the economy is performing well,” said Makgoba.
Government expert and political analyst Sandile Swana said the proposed Aarto could affect the ANC in the upcoming local elections.
“The ANC permanently lost the Western Cape. Gauteng is going to be lost in the near future one way or the other. The ANC is generally struggling to get 51% of the vote. Beyond that residents have many legal avenues to sue the government for any actions it may take. David Makhura knows the risk. Tito Mboweni is desperately looking for any money he can get including e-tolls. But votes are at great risk,” Swana said.
Fick said the organisation’s legal team has identified the following problems with the new regulations
* The electronic delivery of Aarto notices (via SMS or email) presents an unacceptable risk for motorists who may overlook them.
* While proposed regulations stipulate that drivers, whose licences will be suspended due to the accumulation of the maximum demerit points, may be informed by registered post or electronic means, the act says only registered post may be used. This makes the regulation void, as it cannot amend legislation.
* Prescriptions around rehabilitation programmes to get driving licences back are too vague and ambiguous.
* The prescribed appeals process, where decisions can be reviewed or appealed, will more than likely result in administrative backlogs as the single Appeals Tribunal, run by a chairperson and eight part-time members, will not be able to handle countrywide appeals and or reviews.
* The enforcement of traffic and parking laws must take place at a local and provincial level and cannot be usurped by national organs of state by creating the Appeals Tribunal through the Aarto Amendment Act and the regulations.
* Outa believes the suggested R100 infringement penalty levy payable on all Aarto notices is exorbitant, especially in light of the fact that the Amendment Act proposes that Aarto notices may be sent via electronic communication.
*Outa does not believe that the Aarto Amendment Act and the regulations will be able to practically enforce e-tolls. It would require processing traffic fines and reminders for every unpaid gantry e-toll bill.