5 December 2013:
SANRAL e-Tolling is now live, but what this really means is that a number of precedents have now been set for urban tolling to continue across other parts of Gauteng, and into the rest of the country, effectively leaving the road user with fewer non-tolled alternatives.
The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) points out that the e-Toll debate is taking shape around the City of Cape Town, with speculation that Durban may be next on the e-Toll list. Although the Minister of Transport mentioned that Gauteng is the economic hub of the country, and therefore required much-needed road infrastructure upgrades funded by tolls, it is unclear what justification there will be for e-Tolling for the rest of the country.
SANRAL can no longer continue with its scare tactics or attempt to hide facts from the public. The fact is that non-registered motorists who do not pay their toll fees within a seven day grace period will not be prosecuted, but will instead pay a higher alternate user rate as determined by SANRAL. This underscores the conflicting and unclear communications from SANRAL and the Department of Transport relating to the intended prosecution of so-called defaulting motorists, including a grossly undefined debt collection process.
The implications of large numbers of motorists waiting to pay, or refusing to pay outright, will result in an administrative nightmare for the e-Tolling system, including the negative impact on SANRAL’s cash flow. Although the Minister of Transport has claimed that “the government cares for its people” and therefore lowered the cost per kilometre for e-Tolling, the South African motorist has emerged as the ultimate loser.
Massive public rejection of the system, the persistence by OUTA to fight the e-Tolling battle, and the AA’s petition submitted in 2011 with 52,000 signatures, have clearly demonstrated that the majority of people wanted e-Tolling scrapped in favour of an alternate funding method. The low uptake of e-Tags is further evidence of public rejection of the system.
A 2007 study conducted by the AA quantified the costs of traffic congestion. Despite the Minister’s continual referral to this report, the study did not support the notion of e-Tolling, but rather proved that the cost of long-overdue freeway improvements would negatively affect Gauteng’s economy if not addressed.
The Minister also mentioned the R150 billion road infrastructure backlog, with no apparent means to finance the current problem. The AA continues to question where the current revenue collected from fuel sales, which is supposed to support road infrastructure development and maintenance, goes. The AA again insists on full disclosure by government on how this tax revenue from fuel sales is actually being spent as it’s clearly not being used as intended.
It is now at the discretion of every road user to decide whether or not to register with SANRAL and pay for e-Tolls. If you don’t buy an e-Tag, you are not breaking the law and cannot be arrested for not owning an e-Tag.