E-tolls Sanral

March 2012: E-toll protests in the streets of Johannesburg. (Siyabonga Africa / Flickr)

E-tolls could be suspended – if the AA get their way

The pressure to scrap e-tolls continues to mount, as the AA have released their report into the much-maligned payment system: It’s not a good look for Sanral.

E-tolls Sanral

March 2012: E-toll protests in the streets of Johannesburg. (Siyabonga Africa / Flickr)

The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) have issued their second open letter to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula this year. After congratulating him on his appointment in June, their follow-up has a much-less jovial tone to it, and the organisation believes that now is the time to put e-tolls on the backburner.

Pay Sanral? No w-AA…

After filing an extensive report into the controversial payment scheme, the AA have concluded that compliance is getting lower and drivers in Gauteng remain adamant that there is very little the government could do to get them onside with the project.

The research indicates that people will not pay under the current conditions, and that debt is not a factor in these decisions. The findings highlight explicitly that most users are not paying because of a principled position taken years ago and that no amount of cajoling or enticement will change their minds.

Why the AA want e-tolls suspending

Six years after the gantries were first erected, non-compliance has crippled the road agency Sanral, who are now tens of billions of rand in debt. The AA concluded that suspending the collection of these was the only way forward, to allow stakeholders the chance to come up with an alternative fundraising option:

“We recommend that Sanral suspends e-tolling effective immediately, while reconsidering potential road funding options. Regardless of which road funding method is chosen to go forward, it is of paramount importance that Sanral proceed with sufficient public consultation and input, as well as using complete transparency in their planning and budgeting.”

AA report

The Association went on to explain their stance further:

  • Sanral’s announcement that historical debt will be cancelled before March 2019 has only emboldened fare-dodgers.
  • Those who have never paid have no motivations to start now.
  • Sanral are seen as “lacking empathy”, entrenching the belief that they shouldn’t receive any money.
  • Miscommunication between provincial and national governments has left road-users feeling confused.

E-tolls – can Sanral make you pay for them?

Their open letter was issued just days after it emerged that the new Aarto Bill – otherwise known as the demerit system for drivers – had the potential to trick motorists into paying their e-tolls. The new legislation makes it an offence to ignore road signs. And, with signs in Gauteng clearly denoting what each toll costs, it’s a technicality likely to cause uproar.

However, only 17% of people surveyed by the AA say they would pay-up through fear of legal consequences. This is hardly the overwhelming impact the government were hoping Aarto could have on compliance. Fikile Mbalula now has the directive from the AA, but time will tell whether he’ll choose to implement it or not.