In May this year Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced new dispensations for the much-berated etoll system in Gauteng, and on Wednesday (17 June) the first set of new tariff and payment changes which should bring the law in line with his statement were published in the government gazette.
Opponents to etolling have been highly critical of this initial legislation, however, and the Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) goes as far as to say that what has been gazetted and what has been announced by Ramaphosa are two different things.
The notices were published under government gazette 38884, notice numbers 524 and 525, and signed by the Director General of Transport and Sanral’s CEO Nasir Ali.
“Sadly, Justice Project South Africa is not in the least bit surprised by the fact that the PR exercise announcing the so-called ‘new e-tolls dispensation’ and what has been published in the government gazette notices in question, particularly in the tariff gazette, whilst sort-of resembling one another, don’t actually match one another,” JPSA said in a media statement.
According to JPSA, no road user is currently entitled to the 60% discount on previously incurred etolls, as explained by Ramaphosa, as a notice hasn’t been published by the Director General – even though it has been gazetted.
“A discount of 60% will indeed be applicable on previously incurred e-tolls and for a specific period at some time in the future, however this will NOT be applicable until such time as the Director General publishes a notice giving effect to it. Therefore, no-one is currently entitled to this settlement discount despite it appearing in this notice and having been announced almost a month ago.”
When announcing the discount for unpaid etolls bills, however, Ramaphosa did say that it might take up to four months to introduce this measure.
JPSA’s more stinging criticism, however, is levelled at the promise that in future etolls will be charged at a single rate regardless of whether or not your car is equipped with electronic tag. Under the gazetted regulations, users who do not wish to register for an etag will be subjected to fees that are almost double the 30c per kilometre rate if they don’t pay within the seven day grace period. According to JPSA’s calculations, if they don’t pay within 30 days of an invoice from Sanral, it claims users will pay three times as much as the going rate.
“Road users have once again been misled with respect to the tariff they will be expected to pay – with the repeatedly stated rate of 30c per kilometre again being used to mislead them. The fact is that those who are not registered with or choose not to register with SANRAL and waive the protections afforded to them by the Consumer Protection Act in the process will be expected to pay almost double the tariff if they don’t pay within 7 days, and three times that tariff if they don’t pay within 30 days from invoice.”
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance similarly spoke out about the discount last week, saying that the reduction in costs merely meant bringing every charge down to the price tag owners are already paying.
“OUTA believes the public will not to fall for Governments misleading claims of a massive reduction in the tariffs on offer,” the organisation said in a blog post, “The new e-toll rate on offer is merely the e-tag rate of 30c per kilometer, with no reduction at all. The 50% reduction in the R450 cap is only applicable to 7% (seven percent) of the motorists – according to SANRAL’s own claims and this reduction means nothing to 93% of motorists.”
In his statement last month, Ramaphosa also announced that users who don’t live in Gauteng will be able to pass through 30 gantries a month before being charged etolls. This, according to JPSA, is nowhere to be found in the gazetted notices.
“It is notable that the so-called ‘day pass’ remains a feature of the e-tolling system. There is no mention in either notice of the ’30 free gantry passes’ for out-of-towners referenced by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa when this ‘new dispensation’ was announced. If such a feature existed, it would or should have been included in the notice number 524 tariff gazette. It’s not.”
It pointed out however, that the gazetted notices don’t deal with the announcement that motorists’ licence discs will be withheld if they have outstanding etoll fees, as it first needs to be put out for public comment.
“Such amendments to the e-road regulations under the SANRAL Act MUST be published for public comment,” says JPSA.
In conclusion, JPSA said it again “exposes the smoke and mirrors methodology of public announcements.”
In the beginning on June the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) disputed claims by Ramphosa that thousands of motorists are signing up for etolls.
“OUTA takes with a pinch of salt the claim by the Deputy President that thousands of motorists are enquiring and taking up the offers of discounts from the new dispensation. This is merely a feeble attempt aimed at hoodwinking the public into thinking there has been a swing of positive sentiment toward the scheme,” it said in a statement on its site.
[Image – CC by 2.0/Justin Brown]