Johannesburg - The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse has come out swinging in reply to Sanral’s threat to lay criminal charges against motorists who haven’t paid their e-tolls, and to obtain default judgments against people or companies who ignore summonses for outstanding e-tolls.
South African National Roads Agency Limited spokesman Vusi Mona said ‘motorists would be targeted’ in a concerted debt recovery plan. Of the 4.2 million e-tags in circulation, he said, 2.9 million - 69 percent - had a balance owing. As of September 2016, the total owing was R11 billion.
But Outa’s Ben Theron said this flew in the face of Sanral’s previous agreement with Outa that the best way forward was to proceed with a test case to settle the issues against e-tolling – as soon as all the necessary documents had been made available by Sanral.
It seemed strange, he said, that Sanral was now attempting to circumvent this agreement by pushing for civil and criminal charges. If the test case went the way Outa expected it to, he added, Sanral would have no case against anyone, and the more than 6000 summons already prepared would be worthless.
So instead of waiting for that to happen, he said, Sanral seemed to be trying to take advantage of members of the public who didn’t know about it.
No summons for Gauteng municipalities
However, some of the biggest defaulters are the municipalities of Gauteng. Transport minister Dipuo Peters, in answer to a written question in parliament in July 2015, said Gauteng municipalities owed Sanral more than 2.3 billion. Since then, Mona admitted, only Emfuleni had paid up - an amount of R127 685, leaving the City of Ekurhuleni with an outstanding balance of R1.8 million, Tswane R351 644, Lesedi R112 294, Sedibeng R4026 and Midvaal R3395, among others.
Yet no summons has been issued against any municipality for outstanding e-tolls, despite Mona’s insistence that: “We do not distinguish between individuals, companies or municipalities when it comes to debt collection.”
The real issue
It was unfortunate, he said, that the focus was always on e-tolling “rather than the real issue – the sustained provision of the required freeway network for Gauteng residents to grow the economy”.
Which begs the question, according to Outa: Does Sanral not realise that e-tolling is the real issue; the majority of Gauteng motorists have no problem with the ‘user pays’ principle, but rather with how that payment is collected.
Theron said Outa was compiling a list of actions which the public could follow, to deal with the various scenarios that could arise with regard to e-tolling; this information would be available on the Outa website later this week, he said.