OUTA highlights the comments made last month by ETC’s outgoing Chief Operations Officer, Mr Mark Ridgway, which warned motorists that notifications of civil charges would be forthcoming within two weeks, if e-Toll debt remained unpaid. Three weeks have since passed and we are not aware of any summons or notice being served on an organisation or individual in this regard.
However, as with many similar incidents of past rhetoric and threats by SANRAL and ETC over the past two years, and more recently their collection agency – ITC Business Administrators, these intimidation tactics have been nothing but farcical and coercive attempts to get the public to pay a little more into their failed e-toll scheme’s coffers.
“We maintain the scheme has always been an unworkable and one which was introduced unlawfully for a number of reasons. Matters have been made worse for SANRAL over time, as we have uncovered numerous additional elements to add further substance to our original case,” says Wayne Duvenage, the chairperson of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse – OUTA. “SANRAL can shout and advertise as much as they want about the lawfulness of their e-toll scheme, but this remains hot air against the backdrop of an extremely successful civil disobedience campaign which has left them unable to enforce their laws and regulations.”
Two recent publications have further highlighted concerns for the scheme’s ability to survive. On Sunday, 13th March, an article in the Sunday Times (titled: Cushy debt deal for firm linked to e-toll executive), highlighted more conflicts of interest within the e-Toll scheme, whereby Mr Ridgway has private business dealings with ITC and ETC, suggesting questionable relationships around the debt and outsourced collection agents who are now also able to dip into the trough and also make money out of the e-toll pot.
Then on Monday the 14th March, the Gauteng ANC Chairperson, Paul Mashatile was quoted in the Citizen newspaper saying ‘e-tolls should not be forced down the throats of motorists’, which expresses some semblance of rationality and reason being expressed by the authorities on the matter, although the flip-flopping position on the e-toll matter by the ANC politicians in Gauteng, has been somewhat confusing.”
“While all the politicking and threatening rhetoric abounds, OUTA praises the public for their defiance and standing strong on this irrational scheme. We also call on the remaining low percentage of people who are still paying their e-toll bills, to ignore the threats and intimidation emanating from SANRAL and ETC, and to give serious thought as to why they are still contributing to the failed system,” says Duvenage. “User pay schemes of this nature with less than 80% compliance, generally fail within a few years at max, but those which don’t even achieve 50% and then drop off to 10% have no chance of survival, no matter the intensity of threats and coercion applied.”
What SANRAL and their bosses should be now start working on, is planning in earnest to pull the plug on e-Tolls. This will enable a new positive energy and journey to finding a sustainable and efficient mechanism for the financing of road and public transport solutions to tackle congestion in South African urban environments. Someone in authority needs to make the courageous decision, no matter how unpopular that may be to the connected few who are being enriched by the scheme.
The stumbling block as far as we see it, is that bold decisions to reverse a problematic decision are very difficult to make, when the people who created the problem in the first place are left in charge of finding the solution. It may therefore be opportune for the Minister of Transport not to prolong or extend the SANRAL’s CEO, Mr Nazr Alli’s tenure. It’s time to let him go and to appoint new leadership that embraces the input and views of the people and bring-in the necessary changes required for SANRAL to get out of the hole that Mr Alli has helped to dig, for this once resoundingly successful State Owned Entity.