The new amended Aarto Act has officially kicked into gear. Here are its 4 phases

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the department's education drive for the public will continue until September this year.

JMPD officers take part in Operation Okae Molao in December 2019. Picture: @AsktheChiefJMPD/Twitter

CAPE TOWN - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula on Thursday kicked off the implementation of the amended Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act with its first phase.

Speaking at a media conference, Mbalula said phase one of the implementation of the Aarto Act amendments, which officially began on 1 July 2021, would run until the end of September. He said there would be three more phases, lasting until July 2022.

EXPLAINED: The Aarto Act amendments and what they mean for you

The amendments brings with it multiple changes to driving laws, including a new demerit system.

Mbalula said phase one was intended to increase the Road Traffic Infringement Agency's reach nationally through seven service outlets, as well as online services such as the Aarto website and the Aarto mobile APP.

He said that during this phase, the Transport Department would hold public awareness and education campaigns to ensure all road users understand the process.

Phase two will take place between 1 October 2021 and 31 December 2021, which will include the establishment of 18 more service outlets, the Appeals Tribunal coming into full operation, and 67 local and metropolitan municipal areas going online for the rollout. The adjudication process for all nine provinces will also commence.

Phase three will begin in January next year until June 2022, and will start to include 144 remaining local municipal areas announced for the Aarto rollout.

The final stage will take place in 1 July 2022, and will commence the online points demerit system, as well as the rehabilitation programme for offenders. Twenty self-service kiosks will also be established.

Some of the changes to the Act include the following:

  • No longer will it only be driving licences and operator cards which may be suspended or cancelled by the points-demerit system. Permits and operating licences issued in accordance with any road transport legislation will also be included.

  • “Electronic Service” will now form part of the legal means of service of infringement notices and other processes under the AARTO Act. The presumption of service has also been extended to these electronic means of service.

  • Remuneration and allowances paid by the RTIA to its employees will no longer be subject to the oversight of the Minister of Finance. The RTIA Board will only need the approval of the Minister of Transport.

  • There will no longer be a legal distinction between a “minor infringement” and a “major infringement”. Charges in Schedule 3 of the AARTO Regulations, and the actions which may be taken with respect to them will be subject to a classification of “infringement” or “offence” only.

  • Alleged infringers will no longer be allowed to elect to be tried in court. A written representation may be made to the RTIA, If unsuccessful, the alleged infringer may appeal to the Tribunal, if advised by a representations officer to do so, but only if such appeal is lodged within 30 days and is accompanied by the payment of an up-front fee, yet to be prescribed by the Minister. If the Tribunal subsequently rejects the appeal, the alleged infringer must approach the Magistrates’ Court for review of the Tribunal’s decision.

  • If a representation is successful on the grounds of the authorities not having followed the prescribed procedures, that success will be hollow since a replacement infringement notice may then be reissued, provided that it is served within 6 months of the original alleged infringement.

  • The reverse onus on the alleged infringer having to prove themselves innocent or otherwise take action, will be strengthened. If an alleged infringer fails to take action, the so-called “adjudication procedure” will proceed full steam ahead, culminating in the issuing of an enforcement order.

  • When an enforcement order is issued, not only will it block the issuing of a driving licence, professional driving permit and vehicle licence disc, but it will also block the issuing of any permit or licence issued in terms of any road traffic legislation or transport legislation. As before, the issuing of an enforcement order will also impose the applicable demerit points to the driving licence or operator card of the alleged (now convicted) infringer, except that such demerit points will also apply to any permit or licence issued in terms of any road traffic legislation or transport legislation.

  • Whereas proxies for juristic persons who are not operators were previously exempt from having demerit points applied against their driving licences with respect to infringements committed by other persons driving their vehicles, demerit points will now be applied against the driving licences of juristic persons who are not operators, should such proxy fail to nominate the driver within 32 days of the [presumed] service of an infringement notice. Nominating the driver after 32 days is not allowed and this applies to all registered vehicle owners, regardless of whether they are natural or juristic persons.

  • The grossly unconstitutional and otherwise illegal warrant of execution is repealed. Section 22 of the AARTO Act, which deals with the trial and wherein subsection (4) previously held that “Despite any other law, an infringer who has been dealt with by means of administrative procedures in terms of this Chapter, does not incur previous convictions and may not be prosecuted again on the same facts”, is repealed. The concept of a “habitual infringer” is introduced and is defined as a person whose driving licence has already been suspended twice. At that stage only, will such a person become eligible for a “rehabilitation programme” which is yet to be defined and explained, in order to avoid having his or her driving licence cancelled.

  • Any fine imposed as part of a sentence handed down by a court with respect to a conviction in terms of an offence must, despite any other laws, be disbursed as prescribed by the AARTO Regulations. This means that the RTIA will get a share of the penalties imposed by courts for serious road traffic offences, if it is so prescribed in the regulations.

  • The name of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency is changed to the Road Traffic Infringement Authority.

  • The name of the ‘‘national contraventions register’’ is changed to the ‘‘National Road Traffic Offences Register”.

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