Why I shall not buy an e-tag

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

With e-tolls going live on Gauteng’s freeways next week, each of us has to decide whether to buy an e-tag.

Count me out. No e-tag and no payment of any e-toll bill. Here’s why.

It’s not a matter of affordability but rather one of principle. The e-toll system as set up by Sanral is unjust, irrational and too expensive.

If implemented at full tilt it threatens to cripple South Africa’s economic heartland. Followed to its logical conclusion, this means more people will be out of jobs, because employment is reduced in a weakened economy.

Although the poor are nominally exempt because taxi operators won’t have to pay e-tolls, it is this class that will be hardest hit as the prices of many goods and services go up.

For example, most of the food that is transported to and from Gauteng will go under e-toll gantries. Do you imagine the companies will absorb the costs? Of course not. These will be passed on to consumers.

That’s one injustice. Another is the lack of proper public consultation. Throughout this process the attitude of government and Sanral has been that of arrogant bullies. From former government spokesman Jimmy Manyi’s callous “get used to it” last year, to Sanral CEO Nazir Alli’s weekend threat of jail for non-compliance, there’s been a continual undertone of contempt for people like us who are expected to pay.

Hiring outcast journalist Vusi Mona as Sanral’s spokesman compounded the public relations disaster. Most reasonable people agree that freeway upgrades are necessary and must be paid for. However, we already pay a lot of extra charges on the landed price of our fuel, that’s why it’s more expensive here than in neighbouring countries.

In fact the basic fuel price makes up a lot less than half of what you pay at the pump. Gauteng accounts for 36.5% of the fuel sold in SA, so we pay our way. The point is, we have already paid, and continue to pay, more than enough for road upgrades. Instead of being allocated to roads, the money goes into the general fiscus, where billions are wasted.

Never mind the R206 million for Jacob Zuma’s private homestead, outgoing Auditor-General Terence Nombembe said last week that government departments and other public entities are wasting about R31 billion annually in unauthorised, irregular and fruitless spending. Half of one year’s wastage would have paid for Gauteng’s upgrades.

A fuel levy is the most efficient, cost-effective way of collecting money to pay for road upgrades. Compliance is 100% and all the cash can be directed to the right channels. E-tolls by comparison are hugely expensive. Gantries must be erected, monitored and maintained.

Expect massive non-compliance. Toll dodgers must be pursued through debt collectors or our over-burdened courts. About R700 million of the annual fees will go overseas.

Irrational and unjust. Alli boasts that 700 000 people have bought e-tags, but we are not told how many of these are for government vehicles, where we pay anyway. He says it’s illegal to drive on a toll road without paying. Yet alternative routes are inadequate or non-existent. The same goes for public transport. It’s all unfair and unjust.

Let’s boycott e-tolls. Clog the system to make it unworkable until Alli Blah Blah and the haughty colleagues come to their senses.


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