The latest array of GFIP regulations were released on Friday, 24thMay and once again without any public notification or announcement to the general public. On such an emotive matter, one would think their web site would have clear links on their home page and advertisements in the press, inviting the public to comment on these proposed tariffs and regulations. “We are not surprised and have come to expect this lack of open communication and transparency from SANRAL,a state owned enterprise that has ignored the input, insights and will of the people for too long” comments Wayne Duvenage, Chairperson of OUTA.
The new tariffs have had little change from the previous notices, besides a reduction of the R550 cap by R100 per month to R450 for cars (Class A2). They will no doubt try to sell this as a massive gain for society in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of a public that is now much wiser to their antics than SANRAL gives them credit for. Recently, SANRAL have indicated that 96,3% of users will pay under R300, in an attempt to lure the road-users into “getting tagged” as they put it. This use of averages is very misleading, as the amount due by thousands of regular commuters from Tshwane to Johannesburg or from West to East will be well over R300 per month. If this high percentage of users will pay less than R300, why not then lower the maximum to R300? Clearly SANRAL expects a significant portion of their revenue to come from those users who exceed the R300 threshold and hence the modest decrease to only R450’.
“We are also interested to know how SANRAL arrived at the R100 reduction and how they feel this has addressed the thousands of objections from road users” says Duvenage. Furthermore, OUTA calls on SANRAL and Department of Transport to provide feedback from the last round of public engagement sessions held in November 2012 and calls on the authorities to host another round of public discussions to review the latest array of regulations.
Despite the clear rejection by virtually all sectors of society, the Government continues to forge ahead to ram this ill-conceived plan into being, backed by an illogical argument of a “selective” user pays model. “What they blindly ignore is the fact that Gauteng road users are angry about being charged twice for their roads (fuel levies & general taxes plus tolls) and are further punished by paying VAT on the toll charges,” says Duvenage.
This weekend’s press quoted, SANRAL’s Mr Nazir Alli saying that “tolling is a sustainable way of paying for the upgrade of the Gauteng freeway system”. Yet Gauteng road users will fork out almost as much to pay for the collection process as it is to pay for the road upgrade (including interest), which makes it an extremely expensive and irrational, in a city where alternative transport and routes are virtually non-existent. SANRAL’s eToll processes will never have full compliance and is being subjected to a growing opposition that will not stand for this outrageous abuse of their rights. Against this backdrop, how on earth anyone can envisage their eToll plan to be sustainable is beyond belief and if road funding was based on the efficient, zero admin costs and 100% compliant fuel levy, these kinds of problems would fall away.
In the draft eToll Regulations, OUTA also notes that ‘the Agency may follow criminal or civil process to collect all outstanding tolls’ which again gives no clarity on how the authorities intend prosecuting the non-payment of eTolls. OUTA believes that SANRAL will continue to push for implementation at all costs even though the enforcement procedures by implication have not been finalized.