Defend Truth


Aarto and demerit points not the panacea for road carnage and lawlessness — we need effective policing


Wayne Duvenage is a businessman and entrepreneur turned civil activist. Following former positions as CEO of AVIS and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, Duvenage has headed the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse since its inception in 2012.

The Aarto Act and its regulations are steeped in design flaws that set it up for failure long before it got to the starting blocks. The scheme’s success will forever be hampered by its reliance on a very inaccurate National Traffic Information System, as well as a broken postal service.

There is a blinkered notion that Outa’s high court challenge has scuppered the state’s Aarto Act and its gazetted driver demerit point system, which was intended to be government’s panacea to the high number of road fatalities and South Africa’s poor driving culture. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that Aarto is unconstitutional and would have culminated in challenges arising from many metros and municipalities to extricate themselves from the flawed and costly act. In 2021, the City of Cape Town had already expressed its intentions to distance itself from the Aarto scheme, and others would have followed suit, had it not been stopped in its tracks by Outa’s court challenge.  

Essentially, every municipality and metro has a constitutional right to distance themselves from the Aarto scheme foisted on them by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), because it usurps their executive powers to manage these affairs within their own jurisdiction. Of greater concern — no matter how noble the RTIA’s plan to introduce a standard national traffic infringement and licence demerit system — Aarto has become too complex and unworkable within the context of South Africa’s poorly administered transport landscape.  

Giving credence to this “unworkability” point is the fact that the scheme has struggled to get off the ground over the past 13 years. Announcements were made as far back as 2009 of Aarto’s “imminent” launch. The past two years have been peppered with last-minute postponements and new proposals of a multi-stage launch programme, which have failed to generate the necessary traction.  

The Aarto Act and its regulations are steeped in design flaws and ill-conceived administrative processes which set it up for failure long before it got to the starting blocks. Furthermore, the scheme’s success will forever be hampered by its reliance on a very inaccurate National Traffic Information System (Natis), as well as a broken postal service. The designers of Aarto’s numerous regulatory amendments have also assumed that our road users have a highly digital connectedness to the internet, which is not the case in South Africa.  

More worrying though, is whether the state will acknowledge its poor habit of ticking the “public consultation box” by way of meaningless roadshows, and a blind belief that laws and regulations are sufficient for the introduction of complex schemes.

First and foremost in the design and development of successful public administration systems is the need for a deep dive into how the regulations and processes will impact society’s engagement with the state, thereby authentically obtaining public buy-in and support. Only once this is done from a listening (as opposed to telling) perspective, can the authorities begin to develop the efficiencies required within the scheme’s design, including effective enforcement processes. The Aarto scheme was sorely lacking in this approach. 

The notion that administrative systems that rack up points for bad behaviour will somehow solve our high levels of road fatalities and poor driving culture is a grossly flawed one. Addressing the carnage on our roads will need to be done through visible and professional policing, where law enforcement officers are trained to engender a culture of good road behaviour, while focusing on the removal of unlicensed drivers and the numerous unroadworthy and unlicensed vehicles that proliferate our roads.   

Every effort must first be made to improve the accuracy of our Natis vehicle registry system, which also needs to operate in a “live” environment, thereby ensuring that vehicle ownership details are promptly captured and updated in the system. Anything that discourages an online environment, such as exorbitant fees to conduct self-service processing, is taboo. Unfortunately, the RTIA has been hell-bent on designing the Aarto scheme and its related administration processes to generate millions of extra rands for themselves, while foisting a cumbersome and costly dispute resolution and enquiry process onto the road user. 

Futility resides in the administrator’s belief that just because demerit point systems work in some countries, this should be a given in South Africa. In those countries where these systems are successful, they have excellent administrative competencies and vehicle registry systems that are accurate and interconnected to other areas of government administration, which operate at a high degree of efficiency.

Outa’s court challenge has in fact done the Department of Transport a favour, by preventing another embarrassing “eToll-style” failure to another state-managed scheme. One sincerely hopes the department will now take this opportunity to engage with the many stakeholders who have tried to raise the flags and point out the scheme’s many flaws and unworkable processes, let alone its unconstitutional situation. DM


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  • Martin Birtwhistle says:

    We need both effective policing as well as a complete change in attitude by road users. Unfortunately our policing services are ill-trained, demotivated and incompetent and this leads to a sense of impunity by reckless drivers resulting in the high number of completely avoidable accidents we see everyday. There is effectively no visible policing of moving traffic offences, from blatantly ignoring red traffic lights, failure to use indicators, adults and children not strapped in, speeding and one of the most puzzling of all to me is the decision by otherwise law abiding, middle class adults to deliberately remove their number plate from their motorcycle. Again they do this because they know they can get away with it, but does that make it right? We need a change in attitude that says “right is right, even if no-one is doing it and conversely wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it”.

    • Rod H MacLeod says:

      As a motorcyclists, let me explain. Licence plate obscuring or removal is not carried out by motorcyclists “because they know they can get away with it”. We do it because:
      1. Camera traffic offence enforcement has nothing to do with road safety or enforcement, but everything to do with entrapment and revenue generation. The presence of conscientious, trained and dedicated police on the road would soon eliminate this practice among us bikers.
      2. Expecting a 270kg two wheel vehicle to pay the same road toll as a 2,5ton 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser loaded with wife and kids plus luggage plus towing a double axle caravan weighing around another 2 tons is simply diabolical and grossly unjust. We shoot tolls in protest. Give us fair treatment at the tolls (including e-tolls) and you’ll see a big reduction in this practice.

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    I hear what OUTA says , but Duvenhage must be living in “cloud cuckoo land” if he thinks we are ever going to get effective policing in this country, and the demerit system functions well in many other countries in the world. Taking away people’s licenses might just change driving behavior. I have observed this “effect” in other countries.

    • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

      Mally2 – In this country all you need is a can of Coke or a KFC piece of chicken to avoid demerits. This country is far to corrupt for any system to be effective.

      • Rod H MacLeod says:

        Indeed Gerrie – but what makes the demerit system even more laughable is the estimate that upwards of 52% of drivers on our roads have an invalid licence, or a forged licence, or no licence at all.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Yes, we need better law enforcement but the points system also has merits. For instance, repeat offenders of speeding would lose their licences after accumulation of a number of points. Also, the punishment can be tailored to fit the crime. Someone doing 140km/hr in a 60 speed limit zone should lose more points than somebody speeding at 80km/hr in that zone. The same logic would apply to blood alcohol levels.

    • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

      And only road users who don’t bribe (generally law abiding drivers who ‘make a mistake’ somewhere) will be affected by the demerit system.

    • Rod H MacLeod says:

      Paddy, like Mally2 above you want to deal with the drivers who have valid licences. But upwards of 52% of drivers here don’t have valid licences. How do you propose dealing with them?
      It’s like the anti-gun licence lobby. They want to hammer licenced firearm owners – but the real and vast majority of instances of criminal misuse of guns is found in unlicensed stolen or smuggled military and police weapons.
      A demerit system is a political move to look like you’re doing something about our horrendous road death toll, but in fact doing nothing very effective at all.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Great Wayne – we’re OUTA supporters and donors. Keep up the fantastic work you guys do.

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