The unexpected signing by President Zuma of the Transport Related Amendment Matters Bill last month on Saturday 21 September and the subsequent announcement of this only several days later in the afternoon of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), has given fertile grounds to the realization that the Government and SANRAL appear intent on challenging the country’s financially stressed road users by forcing eTolls into place, despite overwhelming opposition to their plan.
In yet a further development, the Minister of Transport, Ms Dipou Peters was reported by the media on Tuesday as requiring less than a month to ‘get their ducks in a row’ prior to their launch of eTolls in Gauteng. This again confirms that SANRAL were never ready to launch within “two weeks” as they often claimed in their legal arguments over the past year. On the 10th April this year, SANRAL announced they would start tolling within two months, making this the fifth announced launch period missed. When asked if we see eTolls launched by November this year, Wayne Duvenage, Chairman of OUTA replied “If the history of their launch dates is anything to go by, I very much doubt they will launch this year. They are nearing three years after their initial launch date in April 2011. But even if they do, launching is one thing, however, running a successful eToll collection process on a sustainable basis is something else and will be almost impossible amidst an environment of widespread public rejection.”
In addition, neither SANRAL nor the Department of Transport have published any details of their legal plans to enforce the non-payment of eTolls. Earlier this year the public were also asked to comment on the proposed changes to the SANRAL Act which would have seen the creation of a separate police force to enforce eToll non-compliance. OUTA is not surprised that feedback on the updates to this bill have not as yet been provided.
The absence of such important details about the legal and enforcement process to be followed, in a transparent and widely published manner, is yet further evidence that Government and SANRAL intend to keep the public poorly appraised and informed of information that is vital to the full understanding of this rather complex system. OUTA believes that a sufficient volume of people will exercise their legal right not to purchase an eTag and to test the robustness of this cumbersome system and eventually render it unworkable.