Johannesburg - It would be crazy for the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) to start prosecuting motorists for the non-payment of their e-toll bills while an inquiry on their feasibility is under review.
So said Wayne Duvenage, founder of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) this morning.
Duvenage said people could receive criminal records for not paying and this would have to be undone if Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s panel came back with a decision to scrap the e-tolls.
“It does not make sense for them to start legal action at this stage,” he said.
Yesterday, Makhura announced the names of five people who would sit on the review panel, saying there would be an outcome by November 30.
Outa, said Duvenage, had approached Sanral and asked them to delay prosecutions, but Sanral had rejected the offer.
“We cannot have one section of government opening up dialogues while another is shutting it down by using the force of law to coerce compliance,” he said.
Motorists, in the meantime, should continue doing what they have been doing since the start of the tolling system.
“Those who are paying should continue to do so if they so decide, and those who are not, must also decide for themselves, but should stick to their guns if they are not paying,” he said.
Duvenage said that with municipal elections happening in 2016, Makhura had no option but to address the matter which has turned out to be the biggest defiance tax campaign in South African history, with less than 50 percent of motorists paying e-tolls, he said.
Outa, he said, was still prepared to pick up the legal costs of the first person to come forward with a summons over unpaid e-toll bills, should Sanral decide to start prosecuting motorists.
However, the association was struggling for funds, and he has appealed to people to assist with donations for costs that would have to be incurred.
He said Outa needed the public to donate between R3 million and R4m to go ahead with the campaign.
Makhura named the initial 10 panellists yesterday, mostly academics, who would be doing the assessment of the socio-economic impact of e-tolls in the province. Five more people are expected to be appointed.
NO EASY SOLUTIONS
“I want to reiterate that while we will not promise easy solutions and claim easy victories with the establishment of this panel, we are saying that we will not turn a blind eye, or close our ears to the cries of the people who are negatively affected by the cost of travelling across the province.”
“At the same time, I urge those who have vehicles to continue paying while we find a lasting solution,” said Makhura.
But the DA’s parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, is unconvinced.
“The e-tolls system is governed by national legislation… The only body that is empowered to legitimately review the system and make pronouncements on its future is Parliament through its portfolio committee on transport.
“It is unclear why the minister has remained silent on this matter, while Premier Makhura continues with this charade.”