Glen Hill
2 minute read
9 Apr 2014
2:00 pm

Slice by slice your rights are removed

Glen Hill

I could hardly help noticing when approaching the Doornpoort toll plaza north of Pretoria the lengths they have gone to encourage the use of e-tags.

Out of seven available booths three have been dedicated solely to users with e-tags. These booths are not merely distinguished as being for e-tags, but they have there own piece of road protected by barriers to ensure that e-tag users experience an altogether more exclusive trouble-free looting of their pocket.

What right does the concession have to treat the people who are their customers in this way? If we are indeed truly free to choose whether to buy an e-tag or not, how can the concessionaire be allowed to prejudice one group of users to the advantage of another?

But this is the “salami principle” in practice, reducing rights or services one little slice at a time, so that people hardly notice, until one day the “salami” is gone.

When toll roads were introduced back in the 1980s they were fiercely resisted by road users, groups of toll-busters blockaded booths and refused to pay.

Government back then agreed that existing roads would not be tolled and that viable alternative routes would be not only maintained, but be marked as such. Toll road users would benefit because the new roads were more direct and traffic would flow freely, saving users both time and money. On this basis motorists agreed that there could in fact be benefits to tolling.

Less than 30 years later the “salami principle” has seen existing roads tolled, with traffic volumes so high that queues mean it can take hours to clear booths. Gone are the alternative routes. None of the benefits that motorists were told would acrue to them when tolling was introduced exist and the promises made at the time are broken.

In the same way e-tolling is the thin edge of the wedge. If this iniquitous system is forced into existence prepare for the rules to change once more. Be prepared to say goodbye to the monthly cap and be prepared to say hello to nationwide gantries siphoning money out of your account wherever you go.

It won’t be long before your traffic fines are deducted from your bank account directly and the onus is on you to prove innocence and extract a refund. Think Aarto, it could be the first slice.