Shut up and drive
More Gauteng freeways will be electronically tolled.
The announcement yesterday of a “new dispensation” by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa effectively paved the way for the expansion of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, which is funded by e-tolls.
An additional 300km of freeways will be tolled in the second phase of the project.
Phase two could extend tolling to the N14 Krugersdorp highway, the section of the M1 between Woodmead and Sandton, the N14 Ben Schoeman highway into Pretoria, the N3 to Heidelberg, the R59 and N12 from Nancefield to Potchefstroom, and the remaining untolled section of the N4 Pretoria.
Estimates of the cost of the expansion vary between R10-billion and R24-billion.
Ramaphosa announced a reduction of almost 50% in e-toll fees.
Soon motorcycles will pay 18cents a kilometre on Gauteng freeways, cars 30c/km, medium-heavy vehicles 75c/km and heavy vehicles R1.50c/km.
The maximum fee for a motorbike will be capped at R125 a month, for a car R225, for medium vehicles R875 and for heavy vehicles R2900.
Anyone not paying toll fees within a month of their being issued will pay double the amount owed.
Opposition parties went on the offensive after Ramaphosa’s announcement.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said: “…the biggest fight must now take place at the polls in 2016, when voters have the opportunity to demonstrate the consequences of the ANC’s announcement.”
But Gauteng premier David Makhura said the new system had nothing to do with the local government elections next year.
When Makhura announced a review of the e-toll system in January, the ANC in Gauteng said the review was necessary to regain voters who had punished the party for the tolling system.
The review recommended a “hybrid” funding option, to pay for phases 1, 2 and 3 of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.
Ramaphosa said motorists who had not paid e-tolls would not be able to renew vehicle licences.
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance chairman Wayne Duvenage said linking e-toll debts to renewal of licences would have “massive unintended consequences”.
“There will be more unlicensed cars on the road and that will create a whole new black market for fake licence discs,” said Duvenage.
Outa said a reduced monthly cap on tolls covered 10% of motorists.
It said the new system still did not address the high cost of collection.
Howard Dembovsky, chairman of Justice Project SA, said new laws might be needed to address constitutional issues arising from linking e-toll fees to licence renewal.
The decision by the government – and by extension the ANC – has also alienated its alliance partner Cosatu. The trade union federation said yesterday it stood by its congress decision to reject the “commodification of public roads”.
Its central executive committee would meet soon to deliberate over the matter.
Ramaphosa said the new system still relied on the user-pay principle in a way that would safeguard the integrity of the fiscus and the South African National Roads Agency, and its ability to raise funds to meet its obligations.
Payment of tolls can be made online, at Sanral kiosks, at a post office and at certain retail outlets.
But e-toll registrations are at an all-time low, according to figures released by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters.
They show the number of newly registering e-toll users in Gauteng has plummeted in two years from more than 350000 a month to just under 20 000.
Peters also revealed that monthly expenditure for Sanral stood at R66-million, with the bulk of the money, R47-million, going to toll operations and maintenance.
According to Maimane, Gauteng motorists have simply refused to pay tolls, causing payments to drop from R120-million in June last year to R45-million in January.
- No amnesty – the government is not letting up on payment. Motorists will still have to pay outstanding accounts, albeit with a discount;
- Charges for e-tolls are now 30c/km, down from 58c/km;
- No payment if you pass through the gantries less than 30 times a year;
- A reduced monthly cap applies to all categories of vehicles;
- Those who fail to pay their debt within a set time will have to pay double; and
- No car licence renewal if you have not settled your e-toll account.
eNatis unable to police e-toll payments, says Outa
BY ANDISWA MAQUTU, BDLIVE , 22 MAY 2015, 05:47
THE ability of the state’s beleaguered electronic National Traffic Information System (eNatis) to police e-toll absconders has been brought into question.
This, after all, charge critics, is the same system that has proven woefully inadequate in dispensing its mandate to provide correct e-toll bills and is the subject of a legal battle.
Running the e-toll system has cost the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) more than R66m on top of the interest charges on the R50bn project, according to figures given to the Freedom Front Plus spokesman for transport, Anton Alberts, in response to parliamentary questions posed to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters.
In March, the difference between projected and real income from the controversial Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project was R167m, from R144m in February and R159m in January.
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) chairman Wayne Duvenage said it would be an “extremely big challenge” for Sanral, the Department of Transport and the Post Office’s systems to be integrated well enough to prevent motorists from getting vehicle licences.
eNatis had not been updated and motorists were not getting their e-toll bills because the entire system was “in a horrible state”, he said.
Justice Project SA chairman Howard Dembovsky, however, said it would “not be too difficult” to integrate the systems as the Department of Transport and Sanral had access to eNatis.
“The challenges are not going to come from a practical implementation perspective but a legal perspective,” he said.
The transport minister would have to publish draft regulations for the amendment and invite public comment.
On Wednesday Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the new dispensation for e-tolls, which included vehicle licences being withheld if e-toll payments had not been made within 12 months. In addition toll fees would be capped at R255 a month from R450, and penalties on unpaid accounts would be capped at R450.
E-tag registrations have been on a steady decline to only 20,104 last month in April of this year from 356,766 in December 2013, when the programme began.
Congress of South African Trade Unions spokesman Norman Mampane said the organisation was scheduled to hold a special central executive committee meeting on Monday, where the body would “vividly” articulate the effects of the new e-toll dispensation.
STATENT BY JPSA
Since the Deputy President’s announcement on Tuesday 20 May 2015 wherein it was stated that e-tolls would be linked to licence disc renewals, Justice Project South Africa has received numerous queries with respect to whether this concept would be legal.
As things stand right now, this provision, along with all of the other changes announced around e-tolls yesterday will have to be reduced to writing in the form draft regulations amendments and such draft published for public comment. Interested parties will then have 30 days from the time of publication of that government gazette to make written representations to the Department of Transport. Only when that process has completed and the Minister of Transport has applied her mind to all of the submissions received, may she publish amended regulations and proclaim a commencement date therefor. JPSA is of the opinion that withholding the issue of licence discs, whilst sounding easy enough, may not pass constitutional muster since, amongst other things, it would be tantamount forcing a person who has in fact paid licence fees to renew their licence but to whom a licence disc has been refused to contravene the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2000 by not displaying a current licence as prescribed.Even if this proposed amendment were to pass constitutional muster, there is no guarantee whatsoever that holding motorists to ransom by withholding a licence disc would have the desired effect of forcing people to pay their outstanding e-toll bills. In fact, quite the opposite is true and the possibility of a whole new industry of mass false licence disc production could become a very real possibility.Displaying a counterfeit licence disc is a serious criminal offence for which a person would be charged criminally and such counterfeit discs can be detected by the equipment contained in the now infamous “e-toll roadblocks” SANRAL vans and trucks. Not displaying a current licence disc is however, under the AARTO Act, a minor infringement which results in a R250 fine (discounted by 50% if paid within 32 days).The consequence of not paying such a fine could, after the prescribed period and processes have ensued, lead to an enforcement order being issued, thereby blocking licensing transactions on eNaTIS against the person whose licence disc has already been refused. In other words, that person would then not only have unpaid e-tolls and no licence disc, but would also have one or more unpaid traffic fines which can currently proceed no further than an enforcement order and would therefore constitute no real further consequence.If this provision does go through and people dig their heels in, it may be found by the Gauteng Provincial Government and all licensing authorities in Gauteng that the tactic of withholding licence discs will have a profound negative impact on their own licensing income revenues. With Gauteng’s vehicle population being the greatest in South Africa (38.87% of the country’s total vehicle population of 11,493,608 as at 31 March 2015) the licensing fees generated in Gauteng are far from chump-change and if people stop paying them, this will represent a significant revenue drain for the province and for the Department of Transport.It is indeed a pity that government has insisted on persisting with trying to make what has already demonstrated itself to be a failed and unworkable system, which is additionally enormously unpopular and entirely inappropriate for South Africa work.
Issued by Justice Project SA