Johannesburg - Motorists in Gauteng who default on paying their e-toll fees are in danger of losing their licences should the demerit system of an amended road act come into effect.
The DA and civil lobby group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse are enraged following a public hearing in Mamelodi in Tshwane last week, where it emerged that motorists could be punished with suspension of their licences when amendments to the Administrative Adjunction of Road Traffic Offences Act are enacted.
The draft Aarto Bill was passed by the National Assembly in September 2017 and is with the National Council of Provinces, where public hearings are being held.
This comes as Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office confirmed on Tuesday that President Cyril Ramaphosa had agreed to put in place measures to resolve the e-tolls impasse, which Makhura said had “not worked” in the province.
Outa portfolio manager for transport Rudie Heyneke said it had emerged at the public hearings that ignoring signs at e-toll gantries could be an infringement akin to disobeying road traffic signs under the Aarto regulations, which were gazetted in 2008. This, Heyneke said, was according to an answer from Road Traffic Infringement Agency chief operations officer Thato Tsholetsane.
Section 58 (1) of the 2008 regulations stipulates that disobeying a road sign would result in a R500 fine and a demerit point against the driver. Twelve demerit points could lead to a year’s suspension of your driving licence.
“Imagine driving from Pretoria to Johannesburg," said an irate Heyneke, "and you pass five gantries on a return trip, which is already 10 demerit points. If you drive that road twice in one week, your licence could be suspended."
R3.6 billion outstanding
RTIA spokesman Monde Mkalipi confirmed that e-toll violations were under discussion for the new Aarto regulations, but that they had not yet been finalised.
“The matters that relate to the e-tolls are still under discussion," Mkalipi said. "At the moment one cannot say that if you pass under a gantry you will incur a demerit point."
He added that three more provinces still had to undergo public consultations before the bill is debated, and possibly adopted in the NCOP.
The South African National Roads Agency Limited’s 2017 financial statements showed R3.6 billion in outstanding e-toll fees, due to only 29 percent by the estimated 1.2 million motorists in Gauteng. Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said Outa was fuelling civil disobedience among motorists.
“Outa’s campaign is based on encouraging road users to break the law," Mona said. "Road users follow Outa’s advice at their peril.
"The national road infrastructure provided and maintained by Sanral carries the bulk of freight traffic in the country," he asserted, “If Sanral fails, the users of the network will be in a much worse position, as will the South African economy.”
But Heyneke said his organisation would not be deterred, and that Outa expected the test case to gauge the lawfulness of e-tolls to be heard in 2018 to prove what he said was the illegality of the system.
Meanwhile, DA Gauteng spokesman on roads and transport Fred Nel urged Makhura and President Ramaphosa to give “a final answer on what will happen with regard to the e-tolls”.