The announcement by the new Gauteng Premier David Makhura last Friday to set up a special panel to review the impact on e-tolls on the province, offers the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance hope that the adversarialism and controversy over e-tolling could at last give way to inclusivity and constructive engagement, a necessary means to resolving the impasse.
“We cannot fight and talk at the same time. Society’s backlash and resistance comes as a result of Sanral’s lack of transparency, mistruths and continued psychological ‘lawfare’, which seeks to induce motorists to buy e-tags and pay their e-toll bills” says Wayne Duvenage OUTA Chairman. “However, seven months after the launch and despite an expensive marketing campaign and intimidation tactics, more people remain defiant and are not paying their e-toll bills than those who are, and most of those who are tagged have done so reluctantly.”
SANRAL’s silence to date on the Premier’s e-Toll panel announcement speaks volumes and it is of OUTA’s opinion that SANRAL may not be in support of this plan. OUTA also has reason to believe that Sanral is planning to have the prosecuting authorities issue summons to a handful of “violators” who have not paid their e-toll bills, in an attempt to seek a successful prosecution for non payment. This ‘stick’ approach follows on from Sanral’s recent offer of discounts to entice greater compliance, a tactic that has produced very little success for them and a decision to prosecute non-payers will be their final ‘role of the e-toll dice’, in an attempt to induce greater compliance.
OUTA expresses concern that any attempts by Sanral to proceed with prosecuting freeway users could derail the new engagement initiative by Premier Makhura. In this regard, OUTA calls on Sanral to respond by indicating to society if it will suspend any plans that it (or the NPA) may have, to prosecute freeway users who have not paid their e-toll bills, until the outcome of the Premier’s initiative is concluded.
A positive response by Sanral to suspend any further enforcement plans in this regard will indicate that it is committed to participating in good faith in the e-toll impact review panel, which in turn will open the way for all stakeholders to develop a lasting and efficient solution to the funding of the Gauteng freeway upgrade. Failing a concise message from Sanral in this regard, OUTA will have no alternative but to commence with its fund raising campaign so as to ensure any attempt to criminally prosecute a freeway user is defended by the best available lawyers.
“OUTA’s priority has always sought to propose and encourage more efficient alternatives for the funding of the GFIP and, if indeed we are invited to do so, we will work with the new Gauteng Premier accordingly. OUTA is equally willing to defend society against the despotic actions of SANRAL who have demonstrated an incapability of listening to the majority voices of the Gauteng’s road users,” says John Clarke, OUTA’s spokesperson.