Parliament has asked the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) to halt its proposals to apply extreme measures to force motorists to pay e-tolls.
This after the agency was criticised by lobby groups opposed to e-tolls for suggesting in parliament that docking drivers’ licences could be allowed for motorists who failed to pay for the system.
It also wanted to have South African Revenue Service officials roped in to collect e-tolls debt.
Dikeledi Magadzi, chairperson of the portfolio committee on transport, said its members were not yet concerned about the proposals made by Sanral last week, because the Presidency and Cabinet had yet to make a decision on the future of e-tolls.
“I have indicated to the chairperson of the board at Sanral that there are decisions taking place within Cabinet, and we need an indication as to a way forward for Sanral for the issue of the proposals they are making on licence discs and involving the police and Sars.”
According to Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) founder Howard Dembovsky, President Cyril Ramaphosa was unlikely to announce any decision until after the elections.
He said the project had a myriad of challenges from the beginning, including the apparent inability of cameras to capture data correctly, narrowing the prospect of successfully prosecuting a non-paying motorist.
This sentiment was shared by Democratic Alliance MP Manny de Freitas. He said a financial solution for Sanral was unlikely to emerge from the e-tolls project.
“There is no real way they have come up with to deal with the financial crisis Sanral is in. Had it not been for e-tolls, Sanral would have been in a much better position financially.”
According to Sanral’s annual report, the company had to resort to transferring R1.9 billion from its non-toll portfolio to the toll portfolio in the year ended March 31, 2018. But it said this would only be enough to support Sanral’s liquidity until July next year.
De Freitas said in addition to not saving the agency’s purse, these planned debt collection measures would only make motorists angrier and more defiant.
“This is the one issue post-94 that South Africans agree on across all the demographics, and they agree overwhelmingly on this position against e-tolls. They are simply going to make people angrier, and there will be an upshoot in people driving around with no licences or their discs and licences will be unrenewed.”
The proposals made by Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma also included having insurance companies refuse to insure drivers who owed e-tolls.
Anti-tax abuse group Outa warned that these proposals, and any attempt to force drivers to pay e-tolls, would backfire.
“Sanral’s comments and conduct is an indication that government intends to remain adversarial against society on a grossly irrational scheme that has been introduced against the will of the public. This is a war they will never win and civil society will not take their threats lightly.”