Motorists travelling on Gauteng freeways who fail to pay their e-toll bills may soon end up receiving hefty fines or having their vehicle license disk renewals blocked. This comes as the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) says they are planning on the implementation of a new legal framework, to ensure motorists pay their e-toll bills.
However, civil organisations and legal experts say it’s just a pipe-dream, as SANRAL’s e-toll system has too many legal flaws for it to become a reality.
The Gauteng government says they are also strongly against the e-tolling system and they want it to be scrapped with immediate effect.
Motorists are in for a new set of penalties for the non-payment of e-tolls as well as other driving violations, that are expected to be implemented with the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (AARTO), which is supposedly going to take effect in July this year. Under AARTO, a new demerit and penalties system will be effected, which will see motorists start out with a set number of points, losing them if they commit various traffic offences.
SANRAL says that drivers who fail to pay their e-toll bills will also not be able to renew their vehicle license disks. However, legal expert Sabeer Ahmed Jazbhay says motorists shouldn’t worry just yet.
“I find it absurd that SANRAL is actually thinking about that. I’m sure they should have legal advisors to that effect. They cannot do anything without due process. What they are trying to do is threaten people unilaterally and unlawfully. Only a court or court order, judgment or ruling to that effect can carry forth what they intend to do and therefore it is totally unfair and incorrect and it will be very costly if SANRAL decides to proceed on that.”
Under current regulations, outstanding e-toll bills are not an infringement and car licenses cannot be withheld. Civil organisation, OUTA says they have already approached the courts to stop the implementation of the new AARTO Act.
Spokesperson Wayne Duvenage says, “Well we have lodged our papers with the court and we are going through the motion of responding papers from the Department of Transport. But in short, the AARTO Act is unconstitutional and infringes on people’s rights and much like the e-toll matter it relies on Enatis and Enatis is 50% correct and the management process thereof. If you are going to withhold someone’s license especially if that person’s job relies on that person being the driver and they lose their job because of an inefficient system. There are far too many problems from a practical point of view and the problems we are challenging AARTO.”
The Gauteng provincial government is also strongly opposed to the e-tolling system. This saga has put Gauteng and the national government on a collision course.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told Parliament recently that there’s a need to build a culture of payment in the country and that not paying e-tolls was not an option.
Gauteng Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo says the provincial government is working to abolish the system once and for all.
Motorists have expressed outrage at the newly proposed AARTO Act.
“ I’m appalled by this news now. How can they start this thing with the e-tolls again? I thought they were finished and now they want us to pay this money and not give us our license. I mean no, that’s not right, we are suffering at the moment. And with COVID-19 and everything, everyone has taken a knock on their salaries and so this as an extra cost. Over and above what we are trying to do, no no no, I don’t think this is right,” says a motorist.
MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo has reiterated the position of the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) and its opposition to the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), otherwise known as the e-tolls system.
The MEC said that the provincial government has been working with national government to ensure that implementation of e-tolls in Gauteng is halted.