Gauteng road users have been dreading this day for ages now, and despite strong public outcry, not to mention a concerted effort by several groups, it seems as though the e-tolls are about to go live. Charging for the upgrade of the Gauteng road system is seen by many as a slap in the face by motorists who all already contribute via fuel, levies, taxes and rates, but the government feels that the bill for the most recent improvements to the major road network (by private contractors) need to be paid by Joe Public.
In a recent statement issued by the Oppostion to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) states that motorists will not be in contravention of the law if they are not in possession of an e-tag. In a response to Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, comments for a plea to Gauteng road users to abide by the law and get e-tagged, OUTA points out that getting an e-tag has nothing to do with being law abiding.
But while getting e-tagged and registering with SANRAL has nothing to do with being law abiding, what it does do is make SANRAL’s task of enforcing e-tolling easier. Road users must be aware that getting an e-tag and registering with SANRAL places road users on SANRAL’s system and binds road users to a contract to pay e-tolls.
The choice whether to get e-tagged or not is up to each individual road user.
Non-Tagged road users, will according to statements by SANRAL and the e-Toll regulations
- (a) have 7 days grace in which to pay for driving under a gantry;
- (b) after the expiry of the 7 day grace period, be sent an invoice by SANRAL within 32 days.
Non-Tagged road users can exercise their own choices:
- to pay at a higher tariff, but after putting SANRAL through its paces of invoicing and sending notices for payment and making it difficult for SANRAL to enforce e-tolling;
- to refuse to pay e-tolls at all. In this case, further notices and demands for payment will be made by SANRAL over time until finally SANRAL may sue for payment in court and/or prosecute the road user for non-payment of toll. This may result in the road-user(s) having to defend their action in court.
As regards the second option, every individual citizen has the right to resist the enforcement of unlawful action by Government against him or her. In this regard, the courts have not finally ruled on whether e-tolling is lawful or unlawful and the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment has made it clear that it is still open to individuals to challenge the enforcement of e-tolling on the basis that it is unlawful.
OUTA’s legal team has evidence to show that e-tolling is unlawful, amongst other reasons, because SANRAL failed to comply with the law when it failed to properly inform the public of the intent to toll Gauteng’s freeways at the outset and to conduct the legally required public participation procedure in October 2007 (for the N1, N3, N4 and N12) and April 2008 (for the R21). OUTA intends to bring, or assist in the bringing, of a test case in this regard in order that the liability of road users to pay eTolls be decided by the courts once and for all. This time SANRAL and Government will not be able to hide behind technical defences such as delay, as they could and successfully did when resisting OUTA’s efforts to stop e-tolling before it started. Proceedings against individuals are different, and the courts will have no option but to decide whether e-tolling is in fact lawful or unlawful when SANRAL seeks to enforce e-tolling against individuals.
Road users must be aware that the buy-in by road users for e-Tolling remains very poor and the vast majority of road users still refuse to be e-tolling.
According to last night’s statement by the Minister of Transport, only been 21 000 e-tag sales in the two weeks since the announcement that e-tolling would start on 3 December 2013, which supposedly brings the total of e-Tag sales to around 730 000. Effectively, with e-tolls being launched in the next 24 hours, we have a case of less than a third of the 2,5 million freeway users being e-tagged well below the required levels to make it a success. Readers must also bear in mind that e-tag sales are not the same as e-tag registrations as as it is possible to buy an e-tag from certain outlets without yet registering. In other words, the 730,000 may in real terms be no indication of road user buy-in at all. We also know that most of these numbers claimed by Sanral are taken up by Government fleets and leasing / rental companies.
“This situation is a far cry from a picture of people ‘flocking’ to get tagged, the picture which SANRAL and the Minister of Transport are trying to create, and without committed buy-in and e-tag uptake, the system is doomed,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s Chairperson.
See more at OUTA’s website.