OUTA not fazed by SANRAL’s e-toll launch announcement

OUTA is not surprised or fazed by SANRAL’s announcement to launch their Gauteng Freeway e-toll plans.

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12/04/2013 10:37:57

OUTA not fazed by SANRAL’s e-toll launch announcement

“We’ve heard it all before,” says Wayne Duvenage, Chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA). It has been seven months since the Constitutional Court set aside the initial interdict to allow SANRAL to start tolling, something they claimed they could and would do within two weeks of a ruling in their favour, citing the urgent need to generate revenue and the negative impact the delay was having on their credit ratings. OUTA maintains that SANRAL have never been ready to launch e-tolling to this day, which is actually some two years after the initial launch date announcement for April 2011. “We wonder what the real reasons are that is taking them so long.”

Society should also not be fooled by SANRAL's claims of 78% of the average motorists paying below R100 per month. Averages can be very deceiving. The daily commuter travelling between Tshwane and Johannesburg, or East and West Rand will be paying well over R300 per month. We also expect SANRAL to announce lower e-toll tariffs and reduced maximum monthly limits, along with other initiatives to entice Gauteng road users to get tagged and buy into their plan to tax motorists for the use of freeways. The issue here is the exorbitant and unnecessary collection cost, which is anything between R1,5bn and R1,7bn per annum, following the ETC contract awarded at R8,4bn for the first 5 years to operate the collection system. The public also knows that the tariffs of today are not necessarily the tariffs of tomorrow.

It is also very wrong for SANRAL to state that OUTA’s legal challenge to halt e-tolling is of no consequence. The Constitutional Court ruling in September 2012 was related only to the temporary interdict and was outside the result of the review, which will now be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein during the latter part of the year. When one contemplates the gross neglect of the public engagement process required by our constitution, combined with the irrationality and inefficiency of their plan, we remain adamant that our case remains strong and very defendable in court. Should SANRAL forge ahead regardless, the legal sword hangs over their plans and this should most certainly be of serious concern to them.

SANRAL’s claim that there have been 600,000 tags signed up is misleading, as we know they have given most of these to the fleet management and government fleet organisations. We estimate that less than 60,000 of Gauteng’s 3,5 million motorists have purchased an e-tag. The  public engagement sessions held in November last year also sent a clear message of rejection to the authorities on their e-toll plans. Our enquiries about tag sales at some of their customer sales centres, has revealed dismal sales of less than a handful of tags a week.

Michael Tatalias of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) expresses that “It is society’s lack of trust and their outright rejection of the e-toll plan that is SANRAL’s biggest hurdle, due to the lack of transparency, the high costs and the sheer irrationality of the plan which has clearly not been implemented in the best interest of society. Successful tolling systems around the world are those which have low administration costs (below 10% of the revenue) and which have an extremely high level of support and backing by the public. Coupled with societies rejection of e-tolls are problems and challenges related to the enforcement mechanism through the criminal procedures act (CPA), which will have immense ramifications for the courts and judicial process when people simply do not subscribe to the system”.

OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.