SANRAL Spokesperson, Mr Vusi Mona’s response to OUTA’s claims of the e-Toll scheme’s failure, clearly indicates how out of touch he is with his own organisation’s reality, and the numbers as provided by their own collection agency, the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC).
Mark Ridgeway, the COO of ETC, was recently quoted as saying (Business Report, 26th November 2015); “a total of R5.9 billion in e-tolls was outstanding at the 60 percent discounted rate in terms of the new dispensation… with 81% of this debt being held by 17% or 518,000 account holders [freeway users]”. Extrapolated, this means that there are 3,047,000 of the “3,34 million freeway account holders” who have not paid, according to Mr Ridgway’s statement.
“These are not OUTA’s figures, they are ETC’s,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s Chairman, “Yet Mr. Mona claims that they have ‘1.2 million registered e-toll users of whom about 500 000 belong to fleets and 80 000 to government vehicles’. So while Mr Mona’s smoke and mirror talk tries to hide behind statistics of vehicles registered on SANRAL’s system, the collection figures tell the real story and indicate a substantial abandonment of the scheme, even by previously registered users. Mr Ridgeway’s information concurs with OUTA’s research, whilst Mr Mona’s ongoing inflated and misleading claims remain at odds with reality.
As regards to Mr Mona’s claim that six courts have upheld e-tolls as being legitimate, this is not correct, as no court has found on the legitimacy of e-tolls. However, a court has found that the GFIP toll roads were not legitimately proclaimed because SANRAL did not provide all the information to place the Minister of Transport in a position to make an informed decision (HMKL 3 Investments vs SANRAL 2011). The courts also found that the N4 toll road to Mpumalanga was not proclaimed in a lawful way (State vs. Smit, 2006). In other words, the courts have found, at least twice (three times if you include Western Cape Winelands toll saga) that SANRAL operates outside the very laws it wishes citizens to uphold.
In reference to Mr Mona’s anxiety about OUTA’s growing contributions from its public and business membership base, we believe these active citizens are being driven by the following two reasons; firstly out of principle and solidarity against the abusive extraction of the e-toll tax and secondly, because OUTA has geared its operation to offer the country’s motoring public the most potent defense against SANRAL’s coercive tactics and threats of prosecution.
Furthermore, it is clear to us more than ever before that the scheme has now officially failed, following Mr Mona’s admission that less than 1% of the outstanding e-toll debt has been collected (R40 million of R5,9 billion) in the first and most critical month of the six months dispensation. “This is like inviting 100 people to your party and only one person arrives, making it a bigger failure than the most pessimistic projections could have anticipated.” says Duvenage,
Contrary to Mr Mona’s claim that OUTA ‘breaks down – it does not build’, we uphold that OUTA is a responsible civil intervention organization that builds a stronger country by thwarting state owned organisations from abusing their position of power without consequence.