Pay e-tolls, or else, Sanral warns

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The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has – without hesitation or reservation – reiterated its intention to make motorists pay to drive on e-tolled highways, regardless of whether they are e-tagged.

Spokesman Vusi Mona warned that while the non-payment of e-tolls was not a traffic violation, it has been a criminal offence since 1998 under the Sanral Act. Anything criminal was prosecutable in South Africa, he said.

E-toll gantries went live on December 3 after months of delays caused by legal challenges.

Mona said: “South Africa would be reduced to a banana republic if authorities did not prosecute people who break the law. If you drive on the tolled highways and you don’t pay, there will be consequences. Sanral will not use and keep record of that information, this has nothing to do with us.

CRIMINAL RECORD THREAT

“When applying for a visa, for instance, your application could be turned down on the grounds that you have a criminal record.

“People will lose out on employment opportunities as a result of criminal records emanating from not having paid their e-tolls.”

Contrary to speculation, Sanral was not a financial service provider and could not blacklist defaulters, Mona said.

He insisted that drivers treat e-tolls the same way as traffic fines.

“We don’t have to remind or beg anyone to pay e-tolls. There is sufficient signage that you are driving an e-tolled highway. No one can say they didn’t know.

“If you are not e-tagged and no payment is received within seven days, we’ll send a notice indicating that on such a day you drove on an e-tolled highway and you should pay. This will be followed by an invoice. If you don’t pay, collection and legal procedures will begin.”

Mona said the implementation of e-tolling had been a success technologically. The delay caused by the legal challenges had cost Sanral millions, but had given it time to test the system before its launch.

E-TAG SALES INCREASE

There had been an uptick in e-tag sales in the past three weeks, he said, with 920 310 sold as of yesterday, most of them to individuals.

“We would have been very worried if the sales didn’t go up after the gantries went live. We will continue to educate the public that e-tolling is just a form of payment. It is a system just like electronic banking and municipal services. Are objectors saying they would prefer the traditional method of putting up tollgates in the middle of highways?”

Sanral had an obligation to implement government policies and would do so unless a policy had been declared unconstitutional, Mona said. “And Cosatu, the DA and Outa (Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance) have a right to object.”

SMALL UPTAKE, OUTA CLAIMS

Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said that, based on a statistically sound sample size, research showed only 15 percent of vehicles that used the freeway had e-tags, while 9 percent of those off the freeway did.

“Extrapolating these percentages to the total number of unique vehicles a month using Gauteng freeways, estimated by Sanral to be about 2.3 million, we calculate the maximum number of e-tags in use (as being) 350 000.

“Even if one pushed the e-tag penetration rate to 20 percent, the number would be no more than 450 000. But don’t take our word for it, do the e-tag count yourself. E-tags are easy to see, especially at traffic light on freeways, off- and on-ramps and in car parks at shopping centres.

“If Sanral’s figure for e-tag distribution is to be believed, we can only ascribe their numbers to their including e-tags farmed off to car rental companies and fleets in other parts of the country, plus the hundreds of thousands of e-tags lying around in shops and storerooms. These are in effect useless, unless they are fitted on cars and creating easy revenue generation for Sanral.”

E-TOLLING UNLAWFUL?

Duvenage said getting e-tagged and registering with Sanral had nothing to do with being law-abiding. It would only make enforcing e-tolling easier, place road users on the system and bind them to a contract to pay e-tolls.

Outa’s legal team had evidence that e-tolling was unlawful, he said, and it would bring, or assist in bringing, a test case in this regard.

The Justice Project South Africa has urged the Transport Department to seek legal clarification of the validity of conflicting toll tariffs published in the Government Gazette. Amounts given for similar classes of vehicles differed in the English and Afrikaans versions. The department said the mistake would not affect the validity of the legislation. It would be rectified. -Pretoria News


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