File photo: Thobile Mathonsi / INLSA

Johannesburg - Hard on the heels of a double whammy from finance minister Pravin Gordhan in his budget, the SA National Roads Agency Limited has hit South African motorists with yet another low blow.

At least we were given fair warning of the increases in the general fuel levy and the Road Accident; from 1 April we’ll be paying an extra 39c in taxes on every litre of fuel - which means that tax component of the fuel price will be a whopping R4.78 per litre.

But what Sanral did was to bring in an upwardly-revised set of tariffs for every toll road in South Africa - including the e-tolls on the contentious Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project - by means of an under-the-radar publication in the Government Gazette of 16 February, without so much as a press release.

In fact the last media release from Sanral was dated 17 February and it doesn’t say anything about tariff increases.

The closest the agency got to an actual announcement was an email sent to some - not all - Sanral users on Friday 3 March, the actual day on which the increases took effect, which gave no rand values for the increases, and didn’t offer any explanation of why the increases were necessary.

Even the full list of tolls as published in the Government gazette doesn’t provide any comparison of the new tariffs against the previous rates, or indeed against the 2015 rates.

Another financial blow

The Automobile Association has called it “yet another financial blow to South African consumers, placing even more pressure on already cash-strapped motorists, commuters and consumers”.

“Sanral has again missed an opportunity to engage meaningfully with the public,” it said bluntly. “We warned last year that Sanral must try to win support from the public, but it seems its attitude to motorists remains arrogant and uncaring.”

In an uncharacteristically outspoken statement for the usually middle-of-the-road association, the AA said it would not be surprised if, given this attitude and the prevailing economic conditions in South Africa, even more motorists decided not to pay etolls for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, where payment rates were already low.

“With these increases in toll rates,” it said, “motorists are again being squeezed at every opportunity, a situation that simply cannot continue.”

For example: A typical commute

As an example, the association has prepared a breakdown of the effect the average six percent increase in e-tolls will have on a typical commuter travelling on the GFIP from Soweto to Pretoria and back, showing the previous rates, the new rates from 3 March, and what it costs over a month, and over a year.