The Tshwane and Johannesburg (JHB) Metropolitan Municipalities briefed the Committee on their experiences with the pilot phase of the project to implement the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act. AARTO had been promulgated some years before a decision was taken that a pilot project would be run to test the legislation around the levying and collection of road traffic fines. City of JHB was declared as one pilot site in 2008, and the City of Tshwane was another. Later they were each declared to be an area in which the system should be regarded as fully functioning. The City of JHB briefing set out the process but effectively it was noted that at a particular point, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) had said that the City had to use the National Contravention Register to upload infringements, and that had been the system since 2011. Up to that point, the RTMC had paid the registered mail costs for the notices of infringement to go out. When it ceased doing so, the City took over the function but could not afford to pay for registered mail in 2011 and 2012. There were enormous challenges around courtesy letters (which were supposed to be sent out within a certain time frame otherwise they could be challenged) and with the service by the SA Post Office. A dramatic effect was noted in the levels of fines being paid and collected when SA Post Office could not deliver proof of service of documents. Another problem was that many infringers, if they did not simply neglect to pay, would elect to go to court rather than paying an admission of guilt fine, and this raised the costs substantially, with no guarantee at the end of the day that the case would be heard in court or that the fine would be recovered. The City of JHB was opposed to having to share its revenue from penalties with the RTIA given that the latter was not doing anything to pursue offenders. A number of reports were compiled by City of JHB, finally informing the Minister that if the question of outstanding payments was not addressed, then the City would move to formal dispute resolution mechanisms. The Minister had suggested that this was not necessary, but in April 2016 the Mayoral Committee did recommend that AARTO be suspended in City of JHB.
The City of Tshwane outlined similar problems, particularly around the uncertainty of the mandate. This briefing emphasised the main purpose behind the AARTO – to increase road safety. Tshwane recommended that the completion is either expedited and that there is integration of all AARTO support systems, alternatively, that there is a return to the Criminal Procedure Act System until AARTO readiness is complete. Several times the importance of getting buy-in from the public was mentioned, and it was stressed that one of the major problems is that there is not currently any appreciation of the fact that road users have to drive safely and that this is the main purpose of the legislation. Failure to comply had other implications such as vehicle assurance.
The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) gave input and stressed that the main purpose of AARTO was indeed road safety. It agreed that non-delivery of infringement notices to offenders had been a huge problem, and it was recommended that the AARTO Act should be amended to ensure that other methods of service could be used. The point was made that in terms of the legislation, RTIA is actually not obliged to pay for notices. RTIA concluded that there were indeed legislative deficiencies, coupled with operational challenges and that there were impacts of functionality. Some issues, such as the SA Post Office strikes, had been outside the control of RTIA. The RTMC may well have made a promise that it would pay for serving notices, but because it is actually not obliged to pay, it has every right to discontinue the payment. It believed that legislative amendments would improve the system.
Members showed mixed responses to the briefings. Some felt that it was necessary now to move to rolling out the AARTO nationally, although they did caution that a number of other elements would need to be sorted out first. Other Members described the pilot project as a complete failure and did not believe that the Act should be rolled out finally at all. Members were concerned as to how the cities maintain their budgets for the implementation of AARTO, because revenue coming in was insufficient to sustain the implementation of AARTO. They were also concerned that lessons have not been learnt from the pilot phase and that there was a need to engage still further, and it was suggested that it would be useful to hold another meeting at which all parties were present to try to resolve some of the issues. The Chairperson suggested that if a tribunal were set up this might help to alleviate the position where Cities did not have powers. There was a comment that the demerit system too had some challenges, with the criticism that it could amount to double jeopardy. Community service would need to be carefully considered.
Administrative Adjudication Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO): Report on Pilot implementation: Tshwane & Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipalities briefing
The Chairperson briefly noted that the Tshwane and Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipalities had been asked to brief the Committee on their experiences with the rollout of the pilot phase of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO or the Act) pilot project.
City of Johannesburg briefing
Mr Michael Sun, member of the Mayoral Committee, City of Johannesburg, introduced his team and said that his colleagues would updated the Committee on what the City had achieved, and still wanted to achieve on the AARTO pilot project. Johannesburg (JHB) experienced by far the worst traffic problems and it was hoped that the implementation of AARTO would alleviate the traffic problems. However there had been various issues which had complicated the issue and caused challenges to the City.
Mr Sipho Dlepu, Director, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department, started his presentation by providing some background information on the implementation of AARTO in JHB. The City of JHB had been appointed a pilot site for AARTO, with effect from 2008 and later was declared an AARTO area in which the system fully functions and performs all duties. The City of JHB started with the partial uploading of AARTO 03 notices in June 2010. This was due to development that still had to be done for interfaces between the Local Management Contravention Register (LMCR – Ciprus) and the National Contravention Register (NCR e-Natis). The Act clearly indicates that the infringements can be processed on the LMCR and then be uploaded to the NCR for further processing. The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) instructed the City to resume uploading infringements on the NCR, as the City was no longer allowed to make use of the LMCS (Local Management Contravention System, Ciprus) for any AARTO processes. Uploading of AARTO 01 notices commenced in April 2011, although no courtesy letters or enforcement orders followed as prescribed in the Act, under section 19(1) and section 20(1).
In 2010 the RTMC stopped paying for the City’s registered mail postage costs for the serving of infringement notices on offenders. The City, in order to continue with traffic law enforcement was left with no other budget and no choice but to serve infringement notices by ordinary mail. The estimated cost of registered mail is approximately R10 million a month. The City resumed serving of infringement notices by registered mail in 2012. The RTMC failed to honour its offer to pay for the postage fees of AARTO notices for the duration of the pilot period. The City commenced with the pilot project in 2009 and has been waiting for the National roll-out of AARTO.
He described the current challenges related to courtesy letters and enforcement notices. The uploading of AARTO 01 notices commenced in April 2011, although no courtesy letters or enforcement orders were issued by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) as prescribed in the Act in section 19(1) and 20(1). The uploading of AARTO 03 notices commenced in December 2012, and again no courtesy letters or enforcement orders were issued by the RTIA as prescribed in the Act.
There were also challenges related to the payment of fines. When the RTIA issued courtesy letters and enforcement orders for a short while in the beginning of 2015, the payment of fines had increased substantially for a few months. The service of courtesy letters and enforcement orders by the RTIA (as required by the Act and the Service Level Agreement with the City) ceased in October 2015, when the RTIA refused to pay SA Post Office (SAPO) and when SAPO could no longer render proof of service of documents by registered mail. The payment of fines had dropped substantially since then.
A further challenge arose when an infringer elects to be tried in court for an infringement rather than agreeing to pay. This leads to a long and costly process of summons being printed, and costs of serving that summons, as well as payment of service providers for mass printing of summonses. It may still happen that after all these costs were incurred, magistrates could still strike the case off the roll.
The City of JHB is of the view that sharing of revenue with RTIA is unfair and against public policy since the clock was stopped in October 2015 to date, since courtesy letters and enforcement orders are not served to traffic law offenders.
The difficult history and the challenges the City had in implementing the Act over the years were described in a number of reports, culminating in the letter by the Executive Mayor to the Minister of Transport in January 2015. The letter highlighted the expenses to the City in regard to payments to its service providers and to SAPO for registered mail, the non compliance of the RTIA with the service level agreement (SLA) which led to the very serious challenge to the effectiveness of law enforcement in JHB. The Mayor said that if this was not addressed, the City would have no choice but to utilise the dispute resolution mechanisms that the SLA set out, and if this failed, to declare a formal intergovernmental dispute in terms of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act, 2005.
The Minister of Transport, Ms Dipuo Peters, replied on 30 January 2015. She said that the RTIA had also been negatively affected by the three SAPO strikes in 2014, that the RTIA has resolved its financial problems and that it would comply with its obligations under the Act and SLA, by issuing courtesy letters and enforcement orders respectively with effect from February and March 2015. She suggested that there was no need to utilise the dispute resolution mechanism referred to in the executive letter of the Mayor.
In April 2016, the City Manager received a Mayoral Committee report recommending that AARTO be suspended in the City of JHB. That report is still under consideration
Mr Sun concluded that both Tshwane and City of JHB had been forced into a situation that had created challenges and distress for those in charge of ensuring the efficient running of the Cities. His office received reports on a daily basis about illegal drivers. This seems to indicate that AARTO is having no effect in making road users abide by the road laws, whereas a strong and present threat of losing a licence for breaching with the law would lead to much better compliance. Motorists presently knew that the Cities cannot implement the AARTO system properly, which resulted in lawlessness on the roads of JHB, with road users not caring whether they received citations. The City of JHB appealed to the Committee to assist it in becoming de-commissioned as an implementer of AARTO.
City of Tshwane briefing
Alderman Derrick Kissoonduth, Member of Mayoral Committee: Safety and Security,City of Tshwane, provided background information on the Act. AARTO was piloted in City of Tshwane on 1 July 2008, following Mayoral Committee approval on 16 January 2008 and publication of Government Gazette No 31198. The pilot phase ended on 31 March 2010. A proclamation in Government Gazette No 33084 of 1 April 2010 compels AARTO as the enforcement framework within the City of Tshwane and the City of JHB. The RTIA is the principle administration compliance enforcer agency. He pointed out that 18 years after promulgation of the Act, and eight years after the Tshwane pilot, national roll-out is still awaited.
In 2015/2016, revenue collection amounted to R91.427 million. This represents a collection improvement of 183.55% from 2014/2015. The months January to June 2015 showed a steady decline again. Projected revenue for 2016/2017 is R68.955 million – which will be an expected decrease of 25% of revenue. . The main reasons for the changes include:
- “Enforcement order” status being activated
- Fraudulent deferral to “elect to go to court” was detected and then rectified
- E-NaTIS block effects on “enforcement order” status
- Focused speed camera enforcement operations
- Courtesy letters and enforcement orders de-activated
The latest understanding is that RTIA had instructed a reinstatement of the Courtesy Letters. This was still awaited. Enforcement orders are to be re-instated,but for AARTO 01 infringements only, which meant that the camera speed law enforcement, (AARTO 3) is ineffective. For this reason it made no sense for the Municipality, which was the issuing authority,to spend money on postage for AARTO 03.
Factors that inhibit collection of AARTO revenue include:
- The municipal courts do not have a service provider to serve Section 54
- AARTO offenders are not brought before the court
- Offenders adopting a culture of “elect to go to court” has established a self-destructive cycle for AARTO
- National roll-out is periodically postponed
- SAPO service is not as reliable as expected. Here, he explained that late postage justifies admissible representations or revoking the enforcement orders).
- Diverse payment options are not integrated seamlessly so that revenue disbursement remains problematic
- Corruption is seen in enforcement methods
- Were the rollout to go national, a write-off of all old fines might be implemented to even the playing field for all.
City of Tshwane recommends that the completion is either expedited, with full integration, or there should be a return to enforcement under the Criminal Procedure Act until AARTO is fully ready.
It was noted that if AARTO is to continue, there was a need for integration of all AARTO support systems in respect of:
- E-NaTIS functionality
- Implementing the completed AARTO cycle (with demerit points)
- SAPO support services
- Inter-municipal service level agreements (revenue disbursements)
- Representations and applications for revoking of enforcement orders
- Efficient “elect to go to court” functionality
- Road policing support technology
There should also be comprehensive national consultation and communication campaigns with specific emphasis on labour and job security, and full consideration of HR implications of suspended and cancelled driving licenses.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee, having listened to several presentations on some of the issues that arose in the pilot sites and after hearing the comment by SA Local Government Association (SALGA), had decided that it should engage with the sites and take full cognisance of issues that the two cities had come across in the implementation of AARTO.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) thanked the two presenters for their complementary presentations. He wanted to make a few comments first. RTMC had decided to implement the pilot project to test how it would work and to explore possible challenges in the implementation. However, the RTMC did not provide any assistance, financial or otherwise, for this implementation so that the cities were left to fend for themselves. The entire pilot project was a monumental failure, because when motorists realised that they could get away with not paying fines and that no demerit points were being enforced, they started doing whatever they wanted on the roads. Because of the lack of assistance, the local authorities then threatened to declare an intergovernmental dispute, in his opinion quite rightly. He commented that this was absolute arrogance on the part of the RTIA, who, despite not serving notices and supporting its own project, still demanded money. This was a shocking situation. The presentations from the cities showed just how disastrous the implementation of AARTO had been, particularly the problems related to SAPO, with apparently little desire to try to resolve the issues before AARTO was officially implemented in 2010. He would like to hear comment from others on his summary.
Mr De Freitas asked how the cities maintain their budgets for the implementation of AARTO. Although there was revenue coming in it is not enough to sustain the implementation of AARTO. If implementation in two Metros was a disaster, he thought national roll-out of AARTO will be “an absolute disaster”.
Mr De Freitas asked for further information on the corrupt modus operandi in Tshwane.
He recommended that the Cities should go back to the old system of enforcing under the Criminal Procedure Act system in the meantime while the issues related to AARTO are dealt with. He said that the RTIA needed to act as the champions for AARTO and provide the resources needed for implementation, carrying out a proper pilot.
Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC)stressed that the AARTO Act was in place. This meant that even through there had been problems with the pilot, City of Tshwane and City of JHB were still obliged to implement the current Act. The Act will not be repealed even though the two cities are experiencing some complications. The purpose of this meeting is to learn from the Cities’ experiences, respond to challenges and respond to issues raised, whether these relate to the finances or any other aspects of implementation.
He summarised that from the presentations, it seemed that the implementation was still fraught with challenges and had in fact prevented the enforcement of the laws. Demerits were not being implemented although the pilot phase should have been used to determine what system worked. Every aspect of implementation should have been checked in the pilots, and he wondered if the role players were actually in a position to learn anything from those pilots. He asked if there had been any conversations between the RTIA and RTMC to discuss the challenges as outlined, and, if so, was there a solution?
Mr Ramatlakane also commented that in terms of the bylaws, there are certain, activities and functions that the cities have to police, and lay charges for non-compliance. He wondered how that was working. He emphasised that critical aspects of the pilot had to be addressed. He noted that coordinated input by SALGA would have to continue.
Another Member said that the Committee would not be in a position to take any resolutions on this day, as it must still engage further. SALGA's presentation had contained only one paragraph on implementation of the AARTO pilot, which was why the Committee had requested this far more detailed report. It was very important that all the parties should have a platform to make presentations to the Committee.
The pilot had chosen two metro sites at the same level but the Member thought it may have been more useful if the Department of Transport (DoT) or the RTIA had used one metro and then one municipality for the pilot so that different categories of municipality were tested, especially small aspirant cities like Pietermaritzburg or Polokwane. He thought that this current sample may be misleading. He was not suggesting that another sample should be used now, or that another pilot project be implemented, as AARTO cannot remain in the pilot phase forever. Lessons can also be learned from those municipalities that had not implemented AARTO but were succeeding in ensuring safer roads and getting drivers to abide by the road laws – such as Ekurhuleni.
He said that the SAPO issues were serious, and a lot of money had been invested in bailing it out. He suggested that the Cities should meet with the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services to highlight the problems that the cities are experiencing on SAPO. He also suggested that this Committee should meet with the Minister and SALGA, before the Committee comes to a conclusion on the need to amend the Act, to get as comprehensive a viewpoint as possible and a report from the various parties concerned with their views on how issues might properly be dealt with at an executive level. He could not see that any engagement had happened between the Minister and the Mayors of the cities, other than what City of JHB mentioned. However, he felt that the different spheres of government should not be exchanging letters, but have a proper intergovernmental forum, with input from the Minister, SALGA and all relevant agencies. It would not be fair to blame City of JHB or City of Tshwane for failings in the implementation of AARTO.
Mr G Radebe (ANC) agreed that pilot projects were aimed at learning lessons. It seemed that most of the challenges that these municipalities experienced were caused by the lack of communication or lack of interaction between themselves and the Department of Transport (DoT) and the RTIA. SAPO also seemed to be at the centre of many of the problems, due to the fact that when a traffic fine is issued it should be sent speedily to the offender, to encourage payment of the fine. When the Cities used the post office to serve these notices, there was no assurance that the offender received the mail, as it was not being registered. SAPO issues and financial obligations must be corrected, as the notices are not being sent by registered mail. He considered it a blunder for the two Cities to have tried to use the post office to serve notices. He wondered if the cheaper options of email and phone had been considered.
The Member also said that City of Tshwane and City of JHB were interpreting the Act differently, and he wondered how RTIA saw it. He suggested that there would have to be clear directives so that everyone knows who is responsible for what, when implementing AARTO. He liked the essence of what Mr Sun had said when he expressed that he thinks that AARTO could be a good idea if it could be rolled out nationally, because at the moment, the roll-out of AARTO in only two metros represents a kind of segregation. However, before there is national roll-out there needs to be a proper idea of how AARTO works.
He said that he agreed with the idea of an intergovernmental forum and the engagement between the Minister, the Mayors of the cities, and the relevant role players; as letters do not solve problems. The whole intention behind AARTO is to deal with the issue of carnage on the roads and make the roads safer. He normally drives the roads of Tshwane and JHB, and knows that roadblocks will catch offenders; this was exactly the kind of thinking that AARTO was intended to encourage so that people would always be conscious of consequences, and so constantly thinking about whether they are driving safely.
The Chairperson thanked the Members. The Chief Executive Officer of RTIA was present although RTIA did not have an official delegation here today, and she would ask him to respond to some of the issues raised. He had already spoken of the frustrations in using SAPO services. She asked the Cities if they could put a figure on the resources that the Cities had to employ in issuing fines, and what return was being seen on that investment. She also asked if there were other things within the pilot project that the Cities were supposed to implement but could not.
Mr Japh Chuwe, Chief Executive Officer, Road Traffic Infringement Agency, thanked the MMCs for their contributions. He said that the RTIA had expected to be able to make notes at this meeting and, with the Committee’s approval, then to give some feedback and response. He would give a brief indication now, but the official response would follow.
Mr Chuwe said the RTIA has always done its best to be objective and, in the interests of doing so, requested that RTIA was given the opportunity to give its response when the two Cities were also present, to avoid any suspicion that entities were talking behind each others' backs.
Mr Chuwe strenuously disagreed with the comment of Mr De Freitas that the pilot project is a failure. He was pleased to hear another Member respond that the primary purpose of AARTO and the pilot project was to ensure safe roads and full compliance with traffic laws. The second aim of the pilot was to test the applicability of the system, to see the legislative imperatives and their efficiency and consider the impact that it will have on the issuing authorities. Because it was intended to be a learning phase, it could not have been “a failure”. Many decisions had been made based on the lessons learned. Interventions had been made following identified deficiencies. In summary, RTIA had come to three important conclusions:
1) There were known legislative deficiencies
2) There were operational challenges
3) There was a clear impact in terms of the system's functionality.
The briefing by Tshwane particularly emphasised the need to ensure efficient development of those systems.
He added that some of the issues were beyond the control of the RTIA, and/or the Cities. Interventions that are meant to be able to become the turn around plan are already embedded in the proposals in the legislative amendments. The challenges and problems, such as industrial action, experienced by SAPO had been well recorded, and they did have a tremendously negative effect. This was why amendments had been made to the AARTO Bill proposing that electronic platforms and methods could in future be used to effect the service of documents. He reminded Members that before even starting to assess the impact of the RTIA, it was necessary to recognise that AARTO is an interactive process and that other entities need to perform certain tasks in sequence. If, for instance, the issuing authority is unable to serve an infringement notice, then clearly RTIA cannot be blamed for contravening the Act. Even before RTIA and SAPO had a dispute over service, it must be noted that the issuing authority had responsibility to serve notices, either externally through the RT1s or electronically by RT3s. The RTIA only comes into the picture once there is confirmation that the notice has been served on the individual, and that required getting confirmation from SAPO – failing that, no enforcement order could be served. .
The City of Tshwane had made the point – and he wanted to emphasise it again – that RTMC is a sister agency of the RTIA on the pilot implementation that was started in 2008. Entities should not attack each other. However, it did remain a fact that RTMC had made a commitment to pay for the service of notices, although this was an incorrect decision because the duty lay rather on the Issuing Authority (the traffic department) to serve and pay for notices. The RTMC may well have made a promise that it would pay for serving notices, but because it is actually not obliged to pay, it has every right to discontinue the payment, as it had done in 2010. It informed the Cities that it was not going to pay any longer, and why, and this had been accepted. It was therefore not fair that the Cities were again wanting to blame the RTMC for problems with services of notices, and for failing to keep to its side of the bargain with SAPO. RTIA would like to make another presentation, with the Issuing Authority present, so that they could understand how RTIA addresses the issues.
He added that the RTIA recognised the challenges faced by SAPO. However, only on 18 October 2016 did RTIA received confirmation from the Post Office about further enhancement to its systems it would now implement to ensure that they would meet the needs of the Issuing Authority and the RTIA. It resumed issuing of notices from 18 October 2016. There had been good lessons learned from the numerous challenges. RTIA is extremely excited about the opportunity to effect legislative amendments that will increase the efficiency of the system, and had received proposals from internal staff, Tshwane, JHB and the Gauteng Department of Community Safety.
The Chairperson noted that there had apparently not been proper communication between the pilot sites, which could have indicated where progress had been delayed, and discussions might have averted problems across the entire project. It seemed that nobody had actually been trying to deal with the issues identified in the eight years since the pilot phase concluded in 2008. The Committee needed to see what interventions could be initiated now.
Mr Kissoonduth agreed that the intention of the City of Tshwane, the City of JHB and the RTIA was to engage and ensure that South Africa was safe and secure, rather than challenging each other. However, as stated earlier, the RTIA had made changes that impacted on JHB’s ability to implement AARTO. There were different possible ways to implement and the City of JHB was hoping for implementation of section 10, but it was effectively stopped from doing this, as it was stopped on section 2 (sections 3 and 4 were not required).
The Chairperson asked if Mr Kissoonduth could elaborate on the desired outcomes of AARTO.
Mr Kissoonduth said that City of Tshwane was trying to ensure that something positive came out of the experiences of the pilot. The Act should specify what should be done by the cities to implement. He pointed out that although people were suggesting that methods other than SAPO be used to serve notices, this was not actually allowed by the Act; so that would have to be changed to allow for use of sms or email. The issue of who pays for serving notices should have been settled from day 1, with continuing responsibilities then recognised.
The minimum fine that is issued under the AARTO system is R125.00. It is expensive to follow all court steps or even the steps to give a demerit. This would have to be sorted out before a national rollout. He was not suggesting that the system was unworkable, but he was saying that in order for it to work, everything had to be in place before implementation date. Even assuming the failures are corrected, the Act is approved and national roll out is agreed, it would still be necessary to get public buy-in because a the moment the major loopholes in implementation meant that drivers felt they could drive as they pleased.
Mr Kissoonduth cited the situation with SA National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), which had started fining individuals, yet years down the line its bills were higher and its deficit larger. In South Africa a person breaking the law should pay for breaking it, but in practice many AARTO fines were being written off, which turned it into a negative system. He stressed again that the City of Tshwane wanted to have safer roads with far less fatalities caused by human errors. RTMC realised that it should not have decided to pay for services, but where the problem lay was that it had stopped paying during the implementation of the pilot.
He added that the City of Tshwane had many years of experience and was well aware of the shortcomings. However it still was of the view that the AARTO should be rolled out more broadly; despite the greater volume of traffic through Gauteng, AARTO did affect all drivers.
He reiterated that this was an important law, but all the loopholes would have to be closed before it could be implemented properly. Buy-in from the public was extremely important. If the public did not want to be part of the system, the Cities would not get the desired results, no matter what measures they tried to put in place. Getting the buy-in would cost more for the municipalities, and a better system would be needed because the ratepayers of Tshwane and JHB cannot be expected to carry a burden that was not in the Cities' mandates. The mandate must specify the exact role for JHB and Tshwane; they might need extra support in order to carry out the mandate. The cities were willing to spearhead the national roll-out but this support must be mandated, and this mandate would further impact on whether other cities would be prepared to implement AARTO or wished to slow down the AARTO implementation.
Dr Johann Kok, Director: Licensing Services, City of Tshwane, wanted to make a few points very clear. He said that AARTO should no longer be spoken about as a pilot project, as it was not a pilot any more – this was a very important point to make, outside of the philosophy behind AARTO, because it was legislated as being in operation in Tshwane and JHB. City of Tshwane noted when it started and when it ended. When the Proclamation was made, it was no longer a pilot project since that proclamation set out the way in which the law would be enforced against road users who transgressed road traffic laws in Tshwane and JHB. The RTIA was also officially established by proclamation, because it was needed to implement.
He pointed out that the formal establishment of the RTIA reminded the City of Tshwane that certain matters would have to be paid for, and it also clarified some roles. The City's officials thought that the City would have to ensure that it would issue the documents once an offence was committed.
He clarified that a driver transgressing road laws within Tshwane and JHB metros would result in an infringement notice being issued and served, using one of the different methods set out. In the event of no response, an enforcement order will follow and if there is no response to that, a warrant of execution could be carried out.
Even if a repeat offender did respond to the various types of communication, demerit points could still be brought into play, particularly for hardened road users. However, City of Tshwane was told that it cannot implement demerit points against some citizens who lived in particular areas. The City is an economic hub, with visitors from all over the country and internationally, and major road and rail freight links, and would like to have sufficient power to implement the Act properly. The city was also assured on a few occasions that the National Road Act will be implemented, but it kept being postponed, and that made it very difficult for both JHB and Tshwane to get buy-in; instead road users were suggesting that AARTO was little more than a joke and the Cities will be forced to agree on that soon.
The AARTO Act has subtle links to other Acts, which impacts upon how it will be enforced outside of the two Metros. He explained this as follows:
- If a driver gets demerit points on their license following an infringement committed in Tshwane or JHB, that person may be blocked from renewing the license, which would have a national impact although in theory only the people living in the Metro could have their licences suspended. This had not been communicated to other licencing centres.
He stressed that he would not like to be misconstrued, but the implementation piecemeal did lead of confusion. City of Tshwane had already been engaging with representatives from taxi associations, who are suggesting that unless the City of Cape Town does away with the infringement system, drivers will take to the streets in protest. Currently, drivers would be permitted to keep driving, but they would not be able to renew their licences.
Further consequences of poor enforcement of AARTO would include vehicle assurance. In Gauteng alone, it was know that the non-renewal of licenses was around 50%, and growing. Motorists unable to renew their licence were simply driving around in unlicensed vehicles. He recommended that either the Committee must insist upon national roll out as fast as possible, or the two Cities would have to be exempted from the Act pending the full national implementation of AARTO. He appreciated that the Act was still in place and in force, but the situation is “simmering” because of the perceived spirit of success of civil protests against e-tagging in Gauteng, and people were egging each other on to protest also against AARTO. He personally felt that the issues with the implementation go beyond the technicalities and touch on lack of buy-in, and he would like to see a complete new embodiment of AARTO amongst the citizens.
Mr Sun wanted to emphasise a few points. AARTO was not intended to be a cash cow for the Cities ,but it was intended to remove the unruly elements to ensure that the roads were, overall, safer for all. Around 50 000 new cars were being sold every month, and even assuming that some were replacing their existing vehicles, that also indicated that many new drivers were starting to use the roads each month, particularly in Gauteng.
Mr Sun wanted to address Mr De Freitas' comment that AARTO is “a monumental failure”. He did not think that there has been a monumental failure of the AARTO system, although he did concede to difficulties with the legislation. He cited the numbers of fines written out, and the amount recovered, in JHB. The ratio is 77:23, with only 23% people paying their fines. The 77% currently had the view that the Cities could not act against them for failure to pay.
He noted that it was correct that the demerit system was not entirely under the control of the Cities, although the City would issue infringement notices.
He noted that more than 33 million fines had been issued, which meant considerable manpower, resources, fine books and processes to be completed after an officer had issued a fine. He conceded that the problem was that not enough is done once these fines are issued. Nothing follows after the fines have been issued and courtesy letters are not even sent to the offenders.
He added that a lot had been said about SAPO not contributing. He could understand SAPO’s plight and asked why SAPO should continue to render service when it was not receiving money for that service. He was certain that that there was a dispute between the RTIA and SAPO. He questioned why in principle the Cities should be allowed to sent out notices by registered post, if the City was not given enough backup to enable the job to be done.
He was particularly passionate about safe roads, especially hailing from JHB, and he quipped that drivers practically needed diplomas, never mind licences, to navigate the roads and the traffic. His office received complaints daily about taxi drivers, private vehicle drivers, truck drivers and other drivers, that they were not complying with the regulations and the road rules.
He noted the mention of road blocks earlier and said that many drivers would not even stop at these road blocks but would manoevre round them. There were people in the communities who were worsening the situation by going around telling people that if they did not receive courtesy notices by a certain date, nothing would happen on their traffic offences, further weakening the powers of enforcement. Fines were being viewed as scrap paper, despite the enormous amount of effort and resources that went into them being issued.
He noted that Cities of JHB and Tshwane both had suggested that AARTO be suspended at present; JHB certainly wanted it suspended in its own Metro and had requested that it should simply revert to the previous legislation until such time as AARTO is fine tuned and is ready to be rolled out nationally. The learning process is mostly complete. He did not think that six years of learning was really necessary. The costs that the Cities had effectively paid for the pilot already were huge. They could be measured not only in terms of the actual money, but also the cost of vehicles and good road harmony that was the ultimate aim. The Cities had already had to pay dearly for compliance and unless something effective was done, the situation would deteriorate still further. He therefore agreed with many of the comments that had been made by Members. However, he also urged the Committee to take heed of the Cities' plight.
Mr De Freitas wanted to confirm that some of the proposals that had been made by the Cities of Tshwane and JHB would be followed through.
Mr Ramatlakane said that the Committee should look into further deliberations on the issues and should take into account Mr Chuwe’s comment of who should be included.
The Chairperson assured Members that the proposals that had been made in the meeting would definitely be taken up. This meeting had been an eye-opener, and raised the Members' understanding. The Committee fully recognised the issues, and also recognised that there were desires expressed to amend the AARTO Act. It would be helpful to get input from the Cities to the amendments already proposed.
The issue of defaults affects cases going to court, which in the end further hinders the proper implementation of AARTO. She noted that people were electing to go to court rather than pay fines. A person might take this option for a fine of R125, and it would then cost the City up to R20 000 to deal with the matter. Another concern was that the courts were over-stretched and could not possibly hear all the cases created by tickets being written each month. If the legislative office did not have the capacity to deal with all the infringement notices, they would have to fall away.
One of the issues that have been raised in the past concerns the fact that the courts can only hear so many cases related to road law, whereas the cities are writing no less than a million infringements a month. If the legislative office can only deal with so many of these infringements it means that a whole lot of the infringements that are being written are simply going to fall away.
The Chairperson noted that some people had raised the proposal of looking into a tribunal, which would cater for the position that the Cities did not have power in terms of the criminal legislation. However, use of a tribunal raises different issues. She asked for input on whether this might be a tribunal set up at provincial level, as Dr Kok suggested, or one at lower level – in which case the Committee must also think of what might be the issues there. The demerit system came with its own challenges, including her own earlier comment that it is perhaps a ‘double jeopardy’ if an offender is given a fine and their license is also blocked.
The Chairperson suggested that the proposal of community service should also be considered, if considered appropriate even up to the level where a drunken driver might have killed someone while driving. She thanked the representatives from the City of Tshwane and City of JHB and said that the Committee may well consult with them again. SALGA seemed to have a good understanding of where the Committee was coming from. She expressed her appreciation to this team, saying their input was welcomed.
The Chairperson asked that representatives from each of the Cities should attend the public hearings advertised for dealing with AARTO, as advertised on Parliament's website. She was sure that this would go far towards solving the issues at hand.
The committee should now be able to put the recommended amendments to Parliament, and hoped to be able to deal with them very shortly.
The meeting was adjourned.
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