Picture: Karen Sandison
Picture: Karen Sandison

New e-toll bill could cost R87 a kilometre for those unwilling to pay

By Shaun Smillie Time of article published Oct 31, 2020

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It might just become the most expensive road to drive in all of South Africa, that is if the government has its way.

That strip of highway is the N1 and it leads from Sandton to Pretoria and if the proposed Aarto regulations come into effect on July 1 motorists could end up paying a fine of R500 every time they pass under an e-toll gantry.

That could tally to an estimate of R4800 in fines, costing more than a return flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town for two people. The announcement of the regulations comes at a time when many Gauteng motorists felt that e-tolls were behind them, this as the Gauteng ANC continues to call for the scrapping of the controversial system.

But under these new draft regulations motorists would not be able to renew their vehicle licences if they don’t settle their outstanding e-toll bills.

There have been moves before to try and get the majority of Gauteng drivers to pay their bills, but this time the founder and chairperson of the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) Howard Dembovsky believes it is different.

“I think they are dead set on it. They have done something unprecedented this time around with the draft regulations. They have put in the memorandum that this will be implemented on July 1. Previously it was just conjecture entered into by various state officials,” he explained.

The amendment to the regulations, he adds also changes how SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) can send notices to motorists who have outstanding bills. Infringement notices had to be sent via registered mail, now this has changed.

“Now, the distinctive feature of the Amendment Act is that it does away with the requirement to serve documents only via registered mail. It introduces a new form of service called electronic service, said Dembovsky. “So they can send an email, or WhatsApp, an SMS, an Instagram or even a post on your Facebook page. It means that it becomes easy for Sanral to automate the process. So you will have seven days to pay, after that they fire off an email.”

If motorists don’t decide to renew the car licences then this becomes a criminal offence and the possibility of jail time. A number of organisations have announced that they would fight these new proposed regulations.

Cosatu this week called on citizens to oppose the regulations, and said that the government was pickpocketing the poor.

With municipal elections coming up next year, they suggested that Joburgers keep in mind e-tolls when they vote.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said that they would be challenging the constitutionality of the Aarto Act and the Aarto Amendment Act.

Wayne Duvenage, the CEO of Outa, doesn’t believe that it will survive.

“It’s illegal, we don’t believe it will stand the test of a court challenge, you can’t have a R500 fine for a R3 e-toll bill.

So our view is that the public shouldn’t fall for the absurdity of the fact that the government is trying to force something into play that cannot be managed.”

He suggested that motorists continue not paying their e-toll bills. Estimates are that less than 20% of motorists currently pay their e-toll bills.

Outa is compiling comments on the draft Aarto regulations. They are planning a petition in the near future.

Dembovsky sees this all as a money grab by the government.

“The government has become blinded by dollar signs. They are turning traffic fines into an industry,” he said.

“If this goes through unaffected and people buckle under it, don’t expect to drive to your local supermarket to buy milk without being charged to drive on that road.”

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