The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) is both shocked and appalled at Sanral’s waste of money, spending over R85 million per annum to advertise a system, which the majority of people have denounced. “This must go down as one of the world’s most unsuccessful marketing campaigns, whereby several millions of taxpayers rands have been spent with little success in the promotion of their cause,” says Wayne Duvenage, Chairperson of OUTA.
This size of advertising budget is enjoyed by few of South Africa’s top multi-billion rand corporate brands operating in highly competitive industries. SANRAL however operates as a monopoly with government policy at its defense. “There is something seriously wrong with any entity that operates in such a protected environment and spending so much money trying to sell an ill-conceived plan to society, whilst at the same time observing its credibility sink deeper into the mud.” says Duvenage.
SANRAL behaves as if it were a business operating in a competitive environment, seeking customers for its products over another. It is however, a state owned entity whose role is to construct roads in the most efficient manner and at the lowest cost to society. Instead, it has embarked on a strategy to convince society to pay far more than it needs to, through an inefficient revenue generating system of eTolls that enriches overseas companies, whilst at the same time, society has been encumbered by Sanral’s over-payment of the Gauteng freeways due to collusive bid-rigging contractors, the behaviour of which Sanral has yet to condemn.
According to OUTA, a number of corporate entities, government departments and others will ‘toe the eTag line’, however, tens (if not hundreds) of thousands will not get tagged, nor will they pay for the use of the freeways. This is not because they don’t want to pay for infrastructure that offers benefits to society, but because Sanral (and the Government) have lost the trust of the people on this issue. They have sought to force a costly construction and collection system into being, whilst lacking the required levels of transparency and engagement with a society who would want nothing more than to have been part of the process, seeking the most efficient funding mechanism with alternative options and solutions included into the plan.
The examples of road tolling failures around the world are plentiful, especially when they have lost the support of society and the levels of compliance required for success in Gauteng will never be sufficient, regardless of how much advertising Sanral throws at the problem. At the other extreme of enticement, is enforcement and on this score, Government should know by now that laws and regulations are only as good as they are governable. Governing and enforcing the eToll matter will be a never-ending uphill battle. OUTA continues to hope the authorities will review their eToll intentions and consider an alternative funding solution, which will be more beneficial and acceptable to South Africa’s road users.