Hibberdene - Had it not been for an argument with a KwaZulu-Natal traffic officer, a Gauteng man arrested for his sneaky method of avoiding e-toll fees may have got off scot-free.
Markus Gruindelingh 58, of Brakpan North was arrested last Monday in Hibberdene, KZN. On his way to a hospital in Scottburgh to identify his brother’s body, he stopped outside a shop while his passengers went inside to buy cigarettes when Hibiscus Coast Municipal traffic officer Devlyn Abbott noticed his car was obstructing traffic.
Abbott asked Gruindelingh to move his car but he refused and told the officer: “You can’t tell me what to do just because you’re in uniform.”
Gruindelingh said he tried to reason with Abbott but was told: “You Gautengers think you’re clever”.
“The guy was very rude,” said Gruindelingh.
But Abbott said this morning: ”He then refused to give me his driver’s licence, which got my blood boiling.” Abbott then spotted the “R” on the licence plate had been altered to a “P” and he arrested Gruindelingh for tampering with his licence plates.
Gruindelingh confirmed this morning he had to pay bail of R1000 and appeared in the Hibberdene Magistrate’s Court last Tuesday.
“I had to pay an admission of guilt, R800 for obstruction of traffic and R1200 for tampering,” he said.
He said he altered his plate because he opposed the e-tolling system and because he had received fines on a car that did not belong to him.
“We’re all against it, but you don’t really have a choice. We’ve got to keep our mouths shut and stay on the old roads.”
Howard Dembovsky, chairman of the Justice Project SA, said this was not the way to protest against e-tolls as Gruindelingh now had a criminal record. “There’s a difference between taking a stand against e-tolls and engaging in crimes to do it,” he said.
The SA National Roads Agency Limited said it was attending to a request for comment at the time of publication.