If the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act, signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, goes into operation, it will cost those without e-tags R1,000 to travel between Joburg and Pretoria.
This is because there is a fine of R250 per gantry on Gauteng’s tolled highways.
Critics believe the Aarto legislation will be used to bully non-paying motorists to toe the line.
All eyes are now on Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula’s deadline to announce the future of the contentious tolling system. The minister, who leads a task team established last month by the president, has until Saturday to unveil a viable solution to the e-toll debacle.
The announcement has become all-important against the backdrop of revelations that Aarto also appears to indicate operator class vehicle drivers would be docked a point from their licences and fined R500 for every gantry passed without paying.
“This means the driver will lose one demerit point for a fine of R500, while motorists driving a light motor vehicle will not lose any points but will be fined R250 for every gantry they pass without paying e-tolls,” said Fred Nel, Democratic Alliance member of the provincial legislature in Gauteng, yesterday.
Ramaphosa’s signing of Aarto has left Mbalula little wriggle room as he searches for a solution to the estimated 70% non-compliance with e-tolls.
According to the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), 1.49 million trips were recorded each day in 2016 on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, which covers 201km between Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni, with 42 gantries along the N1, N3, N12 and R21.
Nel pointed out that the law was putting businesses at risk as truck drivers working for small businesses could lose their jobs because their licences would be suspended for three years if the fines were not paid.
During the suspension period or while a single enforcement order was in place, the driver would not be allowed to renew a vehicle licence, driving licence card or professional driving permit.
“What is clear is residents are not prepared to pay for e-tolls and we cannot have a situation where motorists are fined for something which they were not consulted on in the first place,” Nel said.
He added that the e-toll system must be scrapped before it causes motorists to infringe, or Ramaphosa should postpone the implementation of Aarto until the e-toll matter was finalised.
Rudie Heyneke, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse portfolio manager for transport, said it remained to be seen how Aarto would classify the signs instructing drivers to pay e-tolls to force people to pay.
“In toll roads with booms you have to stop and pay, but with e-tolls you can pass without paying. So the sign informs you to pay and, if you do not, then you will be fined.
“The idea is people would rather pay R4 or so than be slapped with a R500 or R250 fine later. Sanral will definitely use this to bully people into paying.”