The mass action by minibus taxi drivers in Tshwane which played itself out on Wednesday 16 August 2017 is both unfortunate and misguided; and appears to highlight just how little people know about the AARTO Act which has been in force in Tshwane for more than nine years now says Justice Project South Africa (JPSA).
It has been reported that minibus “taxi drivers embarked on illegal protest action in Tshwane on Wednesday morning, blocking several roads and railway lines and pelting passing cars with rocks” and are to hand a memorandum to the Mayor of Tshwane “complaining about law enforcement handing them tickets which prevent them from renewing their licenses” and/or professional driving permits.
An infringement notice issued in terms of the AARTO Act is subject to the so-called “adjudication procedure” which is prescribed in Chapter III of the AARTO Act which in turn caters for a “courtesy letter” and an “enforcement order” after prescribed periods after the service of an infringement notice have lapsed.
Enforcement orders issued in terms of the AARTO Act are not the equivalent of a warrant of arrest. They do however block the issuing of a motor vehicle licence disc, a driving licence card and/or a professional driving permit. The Cities of Tshwane and Johannesburg have no say in which specific infringement notices become enforcement orders and these enforcement orders can only be issued by the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA). Over the past few years, the RTIA has been issuing increased volumes of enforcement orders and in the 2015/16 financial year, 640,169 enforcement orders were issued.
It is important to note that an enforcement order is issued in the complete absence of any trial since the AARTO Act does not interest itself with whether a person who is accused of a road traffic infringement is guilty or not. All it concerns itself with is administrative procedures. JPSA has repeatedly raised this issue with the highest levels within the Department of Transport, only to be vilified by them.
Regrettably, whilst the taxi drivers in question who are, to all intents and purposes, professional drivers may well have a legitimate gripe regarding enforcement orders being issued against their particulars in the absence of any trial, attacking members of the public and motorists, as well as causing mayhem in the two Cities in which the AARTO Act applies is not the right way to go and merely serves to increase the divide between taxi drivers and other motorists. Furthermore, the concept that traffic fines issued to minibus taxi drivers should be treated any differently to those issued to ordinary motorists is nonsensical and whomever it is who is allegedly negotiating special fine discounts for minibus taxi drivers should stop acting unlawfully since the AARTO Act does not cater for this.