South Africa’s e-toll disaster hasn’t quite been laid to rest – not yet – but we’re slowly getting there. The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) and the Electronic Toll Collection Company (ETC) have tried pretty much every trick in the book to get motorists to pay their e-toll bills – even stooping so low as to threaten, bully and terrorize – but to no avail.
The incensed South African public has stood firm.
A few weeks ago, it became public knowledge that the ETC was not only issuing thousands of summonses per month against non-paying motorists, but was also applying for default judgments against those who ignored their summonses, which, if granted, could lead to their automatic blacklisting.
Widespread panic ensued.
As we recently reported, in response to these claims, the Credit Bureau Association has said that the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Act, 2013, which amended the South African National Roads Agency Limited and National Roads Act, 1998, specifically excludes the levying and collecting of e-tolls from the provisions of the National Credit Act, 2005.
So, the ETC employed some deceitful scare tactics to intimidate Gauteng motorists into paying up for the e-toll fiasco, which nobody wanted and nobody agreed on – and now it’s backfired in the most hilarious sort of way possible.
This week, Sanral announced that it will immediately suspend the process of pursuing e-toll debt through the courts, which includes historic debt and summonses dating back to 2015.
The e-toll scheme has been a controversial topic since the day of its implementation back in 2013. The system has been outright rejected by Gauteng motorists and opposed by civil society groups and opposition parties alike. Compliance levels have been as low as 25%, leading to over R40 billion’s worth of incurred debt.
Due to this non-compliance, Sanral has been forced to not only grovel for multi-billion rand bailouts, but also redirect funds from other crucial projects – such as road maintenance and repairs – to service e-toll debt. Even the Department of Transport recently threw in a R5.7 billion lifeline.
It seems as if the ANC government itself has been divided over the issue for some time now, with some members denouncing the system and calling for it to be scrapped, while others insist that the system works just fine, and won’t be vanishing any time soon.
Indeed, Sanral’s decision to cease all summonses follows an initiative led by the president himself, Cyril Ramaphosa, in an effort to address the e-toll payment gridlock.
So, of course, it stands to reason that not everybody in government is happy about this resolution.
Minister of Not-Being-As-Friendly-As-We-Thought-He-Would-Be, Tito Mboweni, has urged Sanral to reverse its decision to cease the summonses, and to continue to hound down e-toll defaulters, so as to fund the freeway upgrade around Johannesburg and Pretoria.
“I am very unhappy with the decision by the Sanral board not to pursue those who have been defaulting on their e-tolls,” said Mboweni.
“They must reverse the decision immediately or else this has implications for the bond market, it has implications for the fiscus, it has implications for their own credit rating and the credit rating for the country.”
The minister added that people need to learn not to make careless decisions in the midst of a very difficult financial situation.
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