Yadhana Jadoo
Political Editor
3 minute read
3 Apr 2014
5:50 am

Half a billion in e-toll debt as drivers say no

Yadhana Jadoo

The amount of more than half a billion rand in overdue e-toll fees is indicative of just how much more debt Sanral could incur in the months to come with e-tolls only having gone live on December 3 last year, organisations opposed to e-tolling said yesterday.

FILE PICTURE: E-toll objectors gather before taking part in a mass protest drive along the tolled highways. Picture: Michel Bega

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) could be a further R2 billion in debt in the next three months, Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage said.

Justice Project of SA chairperson Howard Dembovsky said the public were not given the opportunity to vote on a referendum on e-tolls, “but they are now voting with their wallets”.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, answering Parliamentary questions yesterday, revealed that half a billion rands are owed in e-toll fees for the period from December 3, 2013 to March 1, 2014.

An invoiced amount of R543 544 574 had been transferred to Sanral’s Violations Processing Centre, with only 9.21% of transactions being recovered.

“If that doesn’t send a loud and clear message that people don’t want or like e-tolls, then I don’t know what will,” Dembovsky said.

Duvenhage agreed. “This is enough of an indication that the e-toll plan is going pear shaped. This again supports the view that e-tolling is an unworkable and irrational system,” he said.

In addition, questions asked by the DA exposed that it cost the department over R50 million to collect the debt. “The reply states that R54 735 638 has been spent collecting debt as of March 1, 2014. This includes R32 782 580 for postage and printing of invoices and the cost of the actual collection process which is R21 953 058,” DA shadow transport minister Ian Ollis said.

“The minister’s reply reveals clearly that South Africans do not want e-tolls and they are not paying for them. It also reveals the costs of the administrative nightmare that has been debt-collecting over the past couple of months.”

Unhappy motorists also used President Jacob Zuma’s reaction on Sunday to the findings of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on Nkandla to voice their resistance.

Zuma said he would not repay some of the money for the upgrades as recommended by the Public Protector, because he “never asked” for it.

Infuriated South Africans used his comments as an example of why they should not pay for e-tolls … because they never asked for it.

A picture doing its rounds on Facebook, shows a motorist with a poster on his rear window reading: “PLEASE SEND MY E-TOLL BILL TO NKANDLA” .

Labour Federaion Cosatu said the situation facing Sanral is ” exactly what it predicted” .

“We can assume this is now becoming a reality for Sanral who will not be able to get sufficient money, because of the popular resistance to e-tolling,” Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said.

Sanral was in crisis and Cosatu was still committed to its programme of mass action against the system, he added.

The entity has not answered emailed questions on how non-payment has affected its operations, including the maintenance of Gauteng’s major highways, and the 42 gantries erected on it.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona had not answered calls from The Citizen. He told the SA Press Association, however, that the debt had been accumulated through motorists with e-tags who have overdue accounts and those without who were picked up on the system.

“It is those people who have amounts outstanding, whether registered or not,” he said.

The Public Protector and the National Consumer Commission will meet next Tuesday to discuss who will handle e-tolling billing complaints which both entities have received.