Gauteng: where freeways are not free

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Motorists started paying for e-tolls on Gauteng freeways from December 3. Photo: Oupa Mokoena

Johannesburg - An application by the FFPlus to stop e-tolling on Gauteng's highways was struck from the roll by the High Court in Pretoria on Monday.

“The matter is scrapped from the roll for the lack of urgency,” Judge Maria Jansen said.

She said the applicant sought wide-reaching relief, and failed to make a proper case.

The e-toll gantries are now expected to go live at midnight.

Church leaders vowed on Monday that they would not pay toll fees, and called on others to do the same.

“We... church leaders have therefore decided to publicly declare our intention to refuse to buy e-tags and to refuse to pay this unjust e-toll,” they said in a statement.

“We call on all other church leaders, members of our churches and all South Africans who support democracy to do the same.”

The leaders, including SA Council of Churches president Bishop Jo Seoka, Central Methodist Mission bishop Paul Verryn, and Methodist Church of Southern Africa presiding bishop Zipho Siwa, said the decision had not been easy.

However, it had to be made as the government was not listening to the people.

Also on Monday, lawyers representing the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) threatened legal action following a request for clarification on e-toll prosecutions, said the Justice Project SA (JPSA).

On Friday, JPSA said it had sent a letter to Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, and national director of public prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana.

In it, JPSA asked for details of the exact legal and administrative processes to be followed for the collection of e-tolls and against those who did not pay.

If this was not forthcoming by noon on Friday, JPSA said its attorneys would approach the high court for clarity.

A response was sent by Werksmans Attorneys, acting on behalf of Sanral, said JPSA chairman Howard Dembovsky.

It was told that Sanral was not in a position to clarify matters reported by members of the media, where such clarity should be sought from the reporters concerned.

All the information JPSA sought was contained in the various government gazettes about e-tolls, and should an application be brought to the courts, Sanral would seek a costs award against JPSA, with “such an application... an outright abuse of process”.

Sanral was not immediately available to comment.

On Sunday, Peters said more than 750,000 motorists had registered and bought e-tags.

“It's in your best interests that you get tagged. This will enable you to gain access to discounts offered to tag holders by Sanral.

“We are aware of campaigns discouraging people from registering, and we wish to encourage motorists to not to pay attention to such,” Peters said in a statement at the time.

On Monday, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) again urged motorists to refrain from buying e-tags.

“There is no law that requires road users to buy an e-tag or register with Sanral in order to use Gauteng's freeways,” said Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage.

He said registering would merely make enforcing e-tolling easier, as motorists would be placed on the Sanral system and be bound to a contract to pay for using the tolled freeways.

“Getting e-tagged also limits the right of road users to object to paying tolls and to resist an unjust system.”

In October, Outa lost an appeal against a high court ruling rejecting an application to have the implementation of e-tolls set aside.

More than a month later, on November 20, Peters announced that e-tolling would begin on December 3.

Sanral later warned that a hefty bill awaited non-registered motorists without e-toll accounts who failed to pay for e-tolls within a week.

Last week, e-tolls stores in malls across the province were quiet.

People who were interviewed expressed anger and confusion.

Samuel Mosoane said that although he disagreed with e-tolling, he wanted an e-tag so that he did not get into trouble with the law.

Katlego Tibame said he would not get an e-tag unless he was caught by law enforcement officials.

On Friday, the marketing research company Ipsos said that in an e-toll survey conducted from October 11 to November 21, four in 10 Gauteng motorists indicated that they might buy e-tags, or already had.

According to the study, only one in 10 drivers in Gauteng (10 percent) strongly agreed with the statement “I have bought an e-toll tag already or intend to buy one”, Ipsos said in a statement.

It said an additional 28 percent had agreed with the statement.

E-tolls have dominated headlines several times this year, with most media houses covering the opposition to the new electronic tolling system, according to Media Tenor SA.

Analysis conducted by the media research company showed that stories on e-tolls made up 40 percent of coverage on transport-related issues in Gauteng.

The result of the analysis was based on 3304 statements on e-tolls in the print media and on television news programmes from January 1 to October 30 this year.

“As the media continues to focus on the political fallout of e-tolls, this could affect the ANC Gauteng support base in next year's elections and further blur the dividing line between government and the ANC,” said Media Tenor SA researcher Ludene Brown.

Sapa


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