With civil disobedience against e-tolls perceived to be on the increase, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has yet to confirm if her office would investigate complaints filed on the controversial user-pay system.
Opposition alliance Outa last week appealed to motorists rebelling against e-toll system on the province’s highways to file complaints with Madonsela’s office.
However, Madonsela’s spokesman Oupa Segalwe said such complaints would have to be assessed like the rest before the public protector could make a call on whether they warranted an investigation. The assessment would be based on the merit of the complaints that might be received.
E-tolling was implemented on December 2 amid protests by the motoring public and various sectors of society.
MAJORITY WON’T PAY?
Outa leader Wayne Duvenage said there were reasons to believe that an estimated 1.5 million road users would not pay their e-toll bills.
“The situation unfolding has all the signs of the largest successful civil defiance campaign in the democratic South Africa,” said Duvenage.
“It is a campaign driven by the denouncement of e-tolling from all sectors of society – labour, the churches, business and civil society at large. Far too much has gone wrong with the entire matter for it to succeed.”
He said tolling was one of those processes that required almost everyone to pay, as you could not have a situation where some people paid to drive on the tolled highways, while hundreds of thousands of people would not pay.
“Without the majority of the public on board, there is not much more authorities can do about it. (This is) other than to continue with a warped belief that threats to criminalise more than 1 million people and spending of millions of taxpayers’ money on a highly unsuccessful media campaign will make it work.”
DOOMED TO FAIL?
Duvenage said the system was creaking under the weight of a costly, cumbersome and unworkable administrative process. He added that e-tolling was successful in environments where high levels of trust between the public and the authorities existed. The system also worked when there were low costs of administration and extremely high levels of public acceptance and compliance, he said.
“Virtually none of these factors exist within the Gauteng e-toll project. No matter what the outcome of the forthcoming general election or the verbal intimidation from the authorities, as long at the vast majority of road users boycott the e-toll system, it will fail and have to be funded by the fiscus.
“Examples of the frustrations people have recently experienced are unsolicited advertising through text messages, inconvenience for e-toll payment by non-registered users by stopping the payment facility, targeting of fleet operators, and outdated data which meant invoices could not be sent to the correct addresses.”
He added that the only question was whether the intransigence of the SA National Roads Agency and the government would see beyond their blind e-toll obsession, and whether they would open their ears to hear of other options of servicing the highway upgrade debt which the people have voiced a willingness to accept.
“We sincerely hope that sanity will prevail in 2014 to overcome this most unfortunate debacle, which is currently doing more damage than good for our country.”