Pay up for e-tolls or face jail time: Sanral

Eyewitness News (EWN) recently reported that Sanral has “given motorists who haven’t paid their bills another 30 days to settle their accounts or face jail time”.

This follows news that Gauteng motorists have run up R540 million in overdue fees since the province’s e-tolling system started on December 3 last year.

“Sanral says it’s now transferred unpaid e-toll fees totalling around R620 million to its Violations Processing Centre for debt collection,” EWN reported.

Howard Dembovsky, chairman of the Justice Project South Africa, said that they thought their ears were deceiving them when they heard the e-toll reports basically saying “pay up – or face jail time”.

He said that the latest attempts at scaremongering come hot on the heels of the revelation in Parliament that Sanral has spent R54.74 million in order to collect R50.02 million.

“Clearly whoever made this threat must have come to the realisation that previous threats of criminal records and credit blacklisting – based on an Act that exempts itself from the National Credit Act – have had a limited effect,” said Dembovsky.

“What Sanral doesn’t seem to realise is that South Africans have been subjected to similar tyrannical threats by the previous regime and they didn’t cave in then – so why would they cave in now?”

He added that it appears that someone at Sanral has decided to dispense with the troublesome formality of conducting trials and now feels that they can jump straight to sentencing people to jail time.

“After all, since all Magistrates just so happen to have their pensions tied up in the Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC’s) investment in e-tolling, there isn’t a single Magistrate in South Africa who will be able to hear an e-tolls prosecution without bias,” said Dembovsky.

He said he suspects that Sanral has now overplayed its hand and gone a gantry too far with its threats.

“Instead of managing to scare more people into compliance, they may simply strengthen the resolve of e-toll dissidents to resist,” he said.

“There is absolutely no way that the courts will willingly dismantle the Gauteng economy by jailing what, at the bare minimum, will be hundreds of thousands of economically active citizens – even if they could manage the volumes.”

Dembovsky said that Sanral has a sizeable pool of willing volunteers to be prosecuted if or when they decide to do so, and none of them have asked for the additional 30 days to pay that is allegedly being offered.

He pointed out that Zwelinzima Vavi, Mark Heywood, Bishop Geoff Davies, Wayne Duvenage, Dr. Mike Deeb, Kay Sexwale, and Howard Dembovsky himself have all invited prosecution by refusing to pay e-tolls.

“If Sanral chooses to pick on someone else instead, they will [be confirming] that they are the bullies and cowards they have thus far proven themselves to be by engaging in intimidation and extortion tactics on public platforms,” he said.

Sanral does have cash

In a related development Sanral said in a press statement that it “does have cash”. The full press statement is provided below.

The impression that the South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (Sanral) is experiencing a cash-flow problem is erroneous.

It is true that only some 9% of non-registered road users pay after the 7 day grace period has expired. However, compliance of non-registered users before the 7 day grace period expires is at 35%.

Only and are then handed over to the Violations Processing Centre (VPC), but thereafter payments are made.

Sanral, in fact, has 1.2 million registered e-tag users and collection from these is going fine. The agency collected R250.8 million during February.

“There is no cash-flow problem but possibly a misunderstanding,” says SANRAL’s financial officer, Inge Mulder. “In fact, we are satisfied with both registrations and payments made by non-registered users. We have always trusted that the public will do the right thing and pay. This high level of compliance has also meant that we are on track to meet our debt obligations.”

As at 28 February 2014 the total revenue transferred to the Violations Processing Centre was R543 544 574, of which R50 043 487 has been paid, representing 9.21%. This revenue is the total amount invoiced to road users that have not paid within the 7 day grace period, excluding any discounts that may be eligible at the date of the report, she explains.

Timing of payment has an impact on the amount payable as the different discounts available, changes. The discounts available to users after the 7 day grace period, is as follows:

  • Payment after 7 days but before 30 days, receives a 60% discount
  • Payment after 30 days but before 60 days, receives a 30% discount

If a user registers simultaneously, s/he will receive a further 6.67% discount. This effectively brings the tariff back to the standard tariff if paid within 30 days.

Even though this means that a road user can pay within 30 days and still only pay the standard tariff, s/he looses all the other discounts that apply to an e-tag registered user, Mulder explains.

  • By the way, Sanral is not laying off staff, neither the service provider CTC. A sub-contractor to ETC is laying off temporary staff because the work they were contracted to do, has been completed.

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Pay up for e-tolls or face jail time: Sanral