The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) has lambasted renewed claims from SANRAL that the non-payment of e-tolls would result in motorists being unable to renew their vehicle licence discs.
“The South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (SANRAL) insistence at the weekend that the non-payment of e-tolls will result in motorists being unable to renew vehicle licence discs is outrageous, dishonest and irregular,” the association stated.
The AAA was responding to a report in the City Press, in which the newspaper cited a section on the SANRAL website pertaining to outstanding toll fees which had to be settled before the renewal of a vehicle licence disc:
The non-payment of toll may result in road users not being issued with their vehicle license disc, upon renewal of the vehicle license. Road users will be able to renew licences, but the disc itself will be withheld until the outstanding toll related infringements have been settled.
The AA said the inclusion on SANRAL’s website was not new, but it remains up and is referenced by SANRAL as its position on non-payment of tolls despite the fact that government still has to pronounce on the future of e-tolls in Gauteng.
“This paragraph gives the impression that the issue of e-tolls is finalised when, in fact, it is still very much in the air,” the AA said.
“By suggesting through this wording on their website – and alluding to such in interviews – that this is a done deal, SANRAL is again demonstrating how desperate it is to coerce the public into paying for something they have taken a principled stand against paying,” the AA stated.
The AA said that the resurfacing of this issue again raised questions about how SANRAL interacts with the public, apparently preferring a heavy-handed approach to one genuinely interested in resolving the issue through the proper channels.
In addition, any efforts at debt collection contradict SANRAL’s earlier position that it was suspending efforts to pursue outstanding debt until a resolution on the future of e-tolls is announced.
Pre-empting the Minister
The AA said that the way forward on e-tolls was still the subject of consultations between the AA, various organisations, and the Minister of Transport.
It was thus gravely concerned that SANRAL perpetuated misinformation about tolls and discs while the Ministry was yet to pronounce on the matter.
“A resolution to the e-toll issue, specifically that relating to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), was to be given at the end of April last year,” the AA said.
“That was postponed with the end of March this year now being tabled as the date on which an announcement regarding the future of e-tolls will be made,” the AA stated.
The AA said it appeared that SANRAL was attempting to pre-empt any announcement by the Minister on his decision regarding the future of e-tolls, and impose its own regulations on the public, completely ignoring the other process.
According to the Association, research provided by the Ministry of Transport conducted among Gauteng motorists found that “no amount of cajoling or threats of legal action would convince the more than 80% of non-payers to change their minds”.
“The evidence is quite clear and irrefutable: motorists have taken a principled stand against e-tolls, and they simply won’t pay outstanding, current or future fees. They have wholly rejected e-tolls and will not participate in any collection scheme,” the Association said.
The AA repeated its previous calls to SANRAL to adopt a more consultative, approachable stance towards motorists in Gauteng, rather than attempt to bully them into compliance.
“Letters of demand, ultimatums, pronouncements out of turn, and other legal threats such as listing at credit agencies are alienating the public; their actions are arrogant, misguided, and unfortunate, and will not solve any problems,” the Association said.