In a notice issued to South African motorists via its website, the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) states that new licence discs can be withheld from drivers until their e-toll bill is settled.
The agency confirmed this warning appeared on the company’s website in a statement to the City Press, although it did not state whether licence discs were already being withheld.
According to Fines4U owner Cornelia van Niekerk, this warning is likely a step to prepare for the implementation of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto).
While these regulations must still be finalised, they could have a severe effect on those who do not pay e-tolls in South Africa.
“It goes much further than that. Vehicle owners’ accounts on the government’s e-Natis system will be blocked,” van Niekerk told City Press.
“For businesses, especially fleet owners, that could be crippling.”
New traffic laws are bad news
The new traffic laws proposed in the Aarto regulations will have an effect that is too frightening to imagine, according to Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) chair Howard Dembovsky.
Dembovsky told MyBroadband last year that the Aarto regulations regard traffic fines as little more than invoices, except where alleged infringers elect to be tried in court under its current provisions.
“Should the AARTO Amendment Act be implemented nationally on 1 July 2021, where a popup Tribunal further hinders access to the lower courts, the injustices it will create are too frightening to imagine,” Dembovsky said.
Of particular concerns is the R100 Infringement Penalty Levy imposed on all fines issued to drivers.
Many have argued that this proposed levy, as well as proposed significant fines for those who travel under e-toll gantries with unpaid e-toll bills, show that the government is placing revenue collection ahead of road safety.
“The quiet implementation of a multi-billion Rand stealth tax is an outrageous addition to the regulations,” the AA said.
“We urge the Department of Transport to remove it – it is neither just nor necessary and is, in our view, an example of the Road Traffic Infringement Agency, which administers AARTO, encroaching on the National Treasury’s fiscal territory.”
Plan to block car sales
Sanral has proposed blocking the renewal of vehicle licences and even the sale of motor vehicles due to unpaid e-tolls as far back as 2018.
Civil action group Outa previously slammed those plans, stating that these suggestions were “desperate threats that will be extremely difficult to implement”.
“For Sanral to suggest that motorists’ vehicle licenses will be withheld because of e-toll debt, is ludicrous and illegal.”
The impact of using coercive tactics such as blocking vehicle relicensing or vehicle sales in order to force the payment of e-tolls, will have negative unintended consequences, the group added.
“It will drag the already cash-strapped municipalities into the e-toll fight. It will impact negatively on local government’s revenue streams and policing processes,” it said.
While this may have seemed difficult to implement in 2018, the impending promulgation of the Aarto regulations means that SANRAL may have the recourse to block vehicle licences as it originally planned.