In its opinion outstanding e-toll bills are related to an unjust and irrational law which makes it unnecessary for businesses to be concerned about the amount they owe or to disclose it as a debt to shareholders, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said in a statement on Friday.
The anti-tolls body was responding to the announcement by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) that it will now try to target fleet-based companies which have the highest outstanding bills. This comes as no surprise, said Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage.
“Outa’s message to all fleet-based companies is that there is no need to fear the approach by ETC (the Electronic Tolling Collection Consortium contracted to Sanral) or Sanral’s collection agents, as the e-toll scheme has been introduced unlawfully,” according to Outa’s opinion.
The civil rights body said it has “numerous” business members with significant outstanding e-toll bills, who have put their faith in Outa’s e-toll Defence Umbrella to ensure that, should their directors be summonsed to appear in a criminal court, or their companies be sued for outstanding amounts, Outa will provide an extensive collateral defence to protect them.
Duvenage announced earlier this month that public members who agree to Outa’s conditions and sign up “to donate a monthly contribution of an affordable value of their choice” will fall under its defensive umbrella.
On its website, Outa said it has expanded its role as a civil action organisation into a membership-based contribution model that sustainably facilitates a growing mandate from the public.
Outa reports that “uptake has been dismal” a month after Sanral’s dispensation offering discount on outstanding e-toll debt, saying “all indications are that this carrot will not be the saving grace for the ill-fated e-toll scheme”.
Sanral has announced that Gauteng road users are eligible for a 60% reduction of their historic e-toll in arrears. Motorists with outstanding e-toll debt incurred from December 3 2013 until August 31 2015 now have six months to settle their accounts or make payment arrangements, said the agency.
“One has to ask why, after two years of operation and over R6bn outstanding bills (after Sanral’s discounts have been applied), no one to date has been issued a summons for non-payment of e-tolls?” asked Sanral.
“We believe this is because they have no case and without a legal channel of enforcement, their strategy is limited to carrots and intimidating messages to coerce the public into submission.”
Duvenage said Outa “applauds those companies which have exercised civil courage to stand strong and defy the e-toll farce”, and vowed it would defend the fleet companies and all individuals within its member base from prosecution, “regardless of the size of their outstanding e-toll bills”.
Just about all the issues it has warned Sanral about concerning the weaknesses and “unworkability” of the e-tolls scheme have materialised, said Outa. It added that the Western Cape toll challenge also strengthened Outa’s case in Gauteng.