With e-tolling now into its third month of operation, research by the Opposition for Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) again indicates that freeway users are largely steadfast and exercising strong levels of civil courage by not getting e-tagged to the levels required by Sanral. Seventy one percent of our second statistically sound sample size of 2700 vehicles, counted during peak hour traffic at nine different on/off ramps during early February, did not have e-tags fitted.
OUTA’s previous research finding on 12th December 2013 (within two weeks of the gantries going live), found that a dismal 15% of users had bought into the system, “but those were the early start up days and we knew the number would climb in the first few months, however, with Sanral’s threatening behaviour we expected the e-tag uptake to be much higher by now” said John Clarke, spokesperson for OUTA.
“Despite Sanral’s intimidation tactics, OUTA has been pleasently surprised at the civil courage of Gauteng citizens who have largely resisted and displayed a relatively low e-tag uptake” said Clarke who added “for e-Tolling to be successful, compliance levels had to be well over the 85% level. With less than a third of freeway users tagged up at this stage, and slowing, the system is headed for failure, as it has in many parts of the world under even more favourable conditions. Clearly, Sanral’s multi-million rand marketing scheme has failed to inspire public confidence in their systems, which, compounded by security breaches, offensive remarks by their spokesperson, misleading statements, chaotic billing and erroneous data have done extreme harm to the legitimacy of the system.”
President Jacob Zuma recently scolded Sanral for the e-toll billing problems, prompting Sanral CEO Nazir Alli to promise prompt remedies. However complaints coming to OUTA and other social media sites have not abated, with large fleet owners and logistic companies now adding their voices of concerns and anger at the cumbersome adminisration and high cost impact that e-tolling is having on business.
President Zuma faces the most difficult year in his entire political career and he doesn’t need the e-tolling albatross also hanging around his neck. OUTA calls on the President to display some civil courage in his State of the Nation speech on Thursday, by calling off the ill-conceived e-tolling system. He would do well to listen to the calls from OUTA, Cosatu, Faith Based and Business organisations, to decontaminate the toxic public/political space ahead of the upcoming general election. Admitting mistakes doesn’t come naturally to politicians and if President Zuma has aspirations to strong statesmanship, that is what he should do.