Sanity prevails with e-tolls ending 12 years after failed launch

OUTA welcomes the official end of e-tolls through the publication of a gazette by SANRAL declaring the Gauteng Freeway network as non-toll routes

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28/03/2024 14:21:55

Picture: OUTA


Sanity prevails with e-tolls ending 12 years after failed launch 

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) welcomes the publication in the Government Gazette by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), declaring that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) roads will no longer be toll routes as from 11 April 2024.  This essentially means that the 2008-gazette that declared the upgraded Gauteng freeway network to be tolled roads, has now been reversed, and the ill-conceived e-toll scheme will be a thing of the past. 

Shutting down the e-toll scheme was a multi-pronged battle fought through courts and official inquiries, across social media, in protest action on the highways, bridges, and outside government offices, in the media and in Parliament. But ultimately, it was the stand taken by hundreds of thousands of motorists and business leaders who defied the scheme and refused to pay their e-toll bills, supported by OUTA’s promise to defend everyone who was summonsed for non-payment of these bills, which brought the scheme to its knees.

The conflict that arose was presided over by seven ministers of transport, a trail of finance ministers and three presidents, who collectively were unable to resolve the problem for a period of twelve years.

 “OUTA was formed exactly twelve years ago in March 2012 to tackle the irrational scheme and the constitutional concerns arising from Government’s decision to introduce an e-toll scheme to Gauteng’s upgraded freeways. It has been a long road, but today we can officially celebrate the end of e-tolling in Gauteng,” says OUTA’s CEO, Wayne Duvenage. 

While OUTA was unable to persuade the courts to halt the scheme back in 2012 because the money had already been spent and the roads were built, OUTA always believed the scheme could be challenged through a variety of avenues, from individual collateral challenges to civil disobedience.

“Bad laws need to be treated in a manner that sends government back to the drawing board, and one such avenue is civil disobedience, which OUTA drove. Fortunately, the general motoring public stood strong and collapsed the system,” says Duvenage.

Duvenage says the e-toll debacle has been a harsh lesson for government. “Public participation must be meaningful, thorough and should demonstrate that public input has been taken seriously, if new policies and laws are to be respected.”

“The scheme had all the signs of failure long before it was launched in December 2013, yet government proceeded without listening to its citizens. Despite evidence-based research from OUTA pointing to the scheme’s looming failures, government persisted for years, resulting in the waste of billions of rand in taxpayers’ money on this expensive and grossly ineffective collection scheme,” says Duvenage.

OUTA reiterates that it was never opposed to the user-pays principle, or the use of electronic tolling technology that SANRAL attempted to use. OUTA’s biggest concerns related to the lack of transparency, a meaningless public consultation process, a cumbersome and largely unworkable administrative process, which made the scheme unenforceable and dead in the water before it even got out of the starting blocks.

“This victory should send a significant message to government that they should never ignore the voice and the power of the people. Today we thank thousands of motorists for standing their ground, alongside OUTA who remained steadfast on this matter. This battle was not an easy one, with the onslaught of government propaganda, expensive court challenges, excessive bullying, and coercive campaigns,” says Duvenage. “The formal announcement of an end to the scheme is a victory for citizen power and organised civil society. It shows that we can collectively stand up to government’s irrational decisions and win.”

More information 

The Government Gazette is here.

A soundclip with comment by OUTA CEO, Wayne Duvenage is here.

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