Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele says the proposed high-speed railway project between Durban and Johannesburg is ready to be presented to Cabinet for approval. Photo: Itumeleng English, The Star

Sbu Ndebele, you take a taxi… if you think it’s a safe and reliable means of transport.

This is the challenge that The Star readers have set for the minister of transport after he said road users who do not like the price of a toll road must take a taxi, bus or train. The remark has been met by outrage.

“He says we must use public transport. What public transport? You use public transport, Sbu. You use a taxi to your office, and from there use public transport to meetings. And on top of that, your kids must also use public transport when going to school. And your wife must go grocery shopping using a minibus taxi. Oh no, you can’t do that, can you? Because you are not an average South African, are you?” wrote a reader.

But if readers are upset by Ndebele’s comments, it gets worse – not paying for your e-tolls will lead to debt collectors being set on you, and your car licence won’t be renewed.

This was the word from SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) CEO Nazir Alli on Wednesday.

Alli said the agency was hoping people would buy e-tags – which would give users a slight discount on the maximum cost of 66c/km – and said he hoped people would be law-abiding citizens when it came to the tolls.

But, just in case you thought you had a choice in the matter, Alli has warned that not paying the tolls would be considered a white-collar crime and there would be penalties.

He said people would be given seven days to pay their toll road fees, after which Sanral would start a debt-collection process.

Alli said that once debt collection had been implemented, the lack of payment would be linked to the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) system, and if you owed anything on your toll fees, you would not be able to renew your vehicle licence.

Alli added that there would also be on-road enforcement, similar to traffic fine payment, where there would be physical law enforcement for the collection of tolls.

“Notices will be sent through e-mail. So before anyone says we will be clogging up the postal services, we won’t,” Alli said.

Thami Bolani, from the National Consumer Forum, said it did not sound right that people would be given only seven days to pay their tolls before debt collection started.

“We need to take this very seriously. The way this whole toll thing has been done leaves a lot to be desired,” Bolani said.

“People are very disappointed with the government about this. In other words, people are going to lose their houses and their belongings if they cannot pay toll fees.”

Bolani said he thought that by starting a “completely untested project” by threatening people about payment would upset people.

“We as people need to do something about this. Maybe we need to take this as far as the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Alli admitted he would not be using public transport in accordance with Ndebele’s advice.

Meanwhile, Cosatu has called for the suspension of the new tolls. Spokesman Patrick Craven said Cosatu was “totally opposed to the new tolls, which will impose a huge financial burden on poor communities”.

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