South Africa 25.1.2014 08:00 am

Sniff of the bigger picture, Sanral?

FILE PICTURE: The Loerie e-toll gantry that crosses the N12 toll road and the R24 Picture: Neil McCartney

FILE PICTURE: The Loerie e-toll gantry that crosses the N12 toll road and the R24 Picture: Neil McCartney

It has been a busy week for e-tolls in democratic South Africa, but not for the right reasons.

Barely two months since the implementation of e-tolling, the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) yesterday received its second “anthrax” scare just three days apart from each other.

This could be seen as the first radical civil action against e-tolls, revealing just how deeply frustrated society is over the system. Is Sanral under siege?

While not condoning the incidents, it is what organisations such as the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) and the federation Cosatu had warned of prior to the launch of the system.

People would rebel against the system, they said.

The use of lethal toxins during apartheid South Africa had been heard of during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the early nineties.

It was revealed that through the Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) programme, lethal chemical weapons had been used to target ANC political leaders.

Back to the past Tuesday, when a “suspicious white substance” had been found in an envelope at Sanral’s Central Operations Centre in Midrand.

Over 1 000 employees were forced to evacuate the building, leaving the e-tolling system unmanned. The substance was later found to be harmless.

Outa condemned the incident, urging the public not to overreact.

Amid the e-tag sales and anthrax scares are the “glitches” within the e-tolling system, as confessed to by Sanral spokes-person Vusi Mona.

This was after countless motorists countrywide laid complaints against incorrect billing, bills not received, unlawful debits, electronic glitches, e-tags not working, bad service and shocking charges.

The Department of Transport (DoT) said this week that it conducted a meeting with Sanral and asked motorists to sit tight while e-tolls are being fixed.

Minutes prior to the news of Tuesday’s anthrax scare, Mona moved to state that if the public did not pay their e-toll bills, the entity “may” have to approach taxpayers for a bailout.

“It (non-payment) will obviously hurt Sanral, if money due to the company is not received. If we don’t receive the money, we may have to approach the taxpayers to bail us out. And I don’t think they will be very impressed,” Mona said.

Both the National Treasury and the DoT refused to comment on Mona’s statement over taxpayers.

“Our comment is that we have no comment on the matter,” said Treasury spokesperson Jabulani Sikhakhane.

“This is a Sanral matter. It is an operational issue for which they have a board and an executive,” said DoT spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso.

The DoT is allocated money from the Treasury’s budget each year.

Sanral, a state-owned entity, is one of the departmental agencies which receives money from the DoT.

For the 2012-13 financial year Sanral received R9.7 billion, according to DoT’s annual report.

This equates to 25% from the DoT’s budget for that year.

Meanwhile, Justice Project South Africa chairperson Howard Dembovsky has challenged the SA National Roads Agency Ltd to prosecute him for non-payment of e-toll bills.

 

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