South African motorists and vehicle owners who continue to pay their e-toll bills are effectively funding a corrupt scheme.
This is according to Wayne Duvenage, CEO of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse OUTA, who recently spoke to MyBroadband regarding reports that renewals of licence discs could be blocked due to non-payment of e-toll fees.
Alongside the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) and Justice Project South Africa’s Howard Dembovsky, Duvenage has slammed a claim made on SANRAL’s website that licence renewals could be blocked for failure to pay e-toll fees.
Dembovsky told MyBroadband that technically the amended Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act allowed licence discs or drivers’ licences to be withheld had infringement notices been issued to non-paying motorists.
“In the jurisdictions of Johannesburg and Tshwane it would have needed to issue infringement notices using charge codes 3820 or 3821 of the current Schedule 3 to the AARTO Regulations and for those infringement notices to progress to enforcement orders,” Dembovsky said.
“Everywhere else, it would have needed to issue Summonses in terms of Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Act and for the accused person to fail to appear in court – which would result in a warrant of arrest being issued,” he added.
However, as Duvenage expanded, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) can only issue a fine (infringement notice) for non-payment of e-tolls if they knew exactly which gantries a particular motorist had ignored and not paid for.
“This information would need to come from SANRAL, who at this stage do not provide this information to the RTIA, meaning there is no way for the RTIA to process the fine, thus no infringement notices are possible for unpaid e-tolls,” Duvenage said.
Duvenage added that no enforcement orders would therefore be possible without the infringement notice, and thus vehicle renewals could not be withheld.
“Finally, the e-toll issue is one driven by a government operating at the national level, while vehicle license renewals are done at a local and provincial level,” Duvenage stated.
“The law is clear when it comes to the separation of powers between two levels of Government and for this reason – along with others already mentioned – we cannot see the enforcement of e-toll payment once – or if ever – AARTO is rolled out on a national basis,” Duvenage said.
He said that OUTA was not aware of a single instance where someone had been refused their licence disc or drivers’ licence renewal due to unpaid e-Tolls.
Dembosky stated that JPSA had never heard of this happening either.
“Any claims to the contrary are the product of a male cow chewing an awful lot of cud and disposing of it anally after digesting it,” Dembovsky said.
Blocking licence renewals will not possible
Duvenage said that enforcing e-toll bill payments before a licence can be issued would be impossible to administer, even when the AARTO Amendment Act comes into effect nationally in July 2021.
“There is a test case by OUTA on the legality of eTolls, which SANRAL abandoned in March 2019, and this makes it difficult for the authorities to enforce a process that could be deemed as unlawful,” Duvenage said.
He stated that if licences were to be withheld on the basis of non-payment of e-toll fines, courts would be inundated with pushback which would spill over into legal challenges.
“When this happens, people become ‘legally’ empowered to drive vehicles without renewed licenses, as their matters will be directed to court challenges based on technical disputes,” Duvenage stated.
“The stand-off between society and the authorities on this issue will be massive and it will spill over into normal traffic fine infringement issues.”
“A big problem for the province will ensue and believe me, politicians don’t want or need this headache, certainly not now in an election year, or any year for that matter. It simply won’t happen,” he added.
Dembovsky’s view corresponded with this, and he said he would not be betting on most people buckling to pay e-Tolls under the threat of withholding licensing transactions.
“While some people in the leafy suburbs may admit defeat and start paying rather than risking being harassed by a traffic cop for not displaying a licence disc or carrying a currently valid driving licence card, there are a lot more who will happily stop paying vehicle licensing taxes and renewing their driving licence cards,” Dembovsky stated.
“That will cause severe damage to provincial budgets and before one gets so arrogant as to say that impounding vehicles and arresting people will act as a deterrent, just ask yourself where the government intends housing two million-plus impounded vehicles and imprisoning around two million e-toll defaulters.”
Funding a corrupt scheme
Duvenage reiterated OUTA’s previous calls to the public to refrain from paying e-Tolls and said the organisation would continue with its court challenge to defend the public if SANRAL decided to open their summonsing process again.
In addition, OUTA has called upon the Transport Minister to launch an independent inquiry into alleged corruption which took place as the scheme was established.
Duvenage was likely referring to police reports and documents provided to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) which have brought grave allegations against Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) and its parent company, Kapsch TrafficCom.
According to the allegations in the police report, ETC defrauded SANRAL by misrepresenting payments amounting to R10 million.
ETC, with full knowledge of Kapsch, had allegedly made these payments over three years to a company called ProAsh Business Services without receiving any services or deliverables from the company.
“In short, the final 15-20% of people currently paying e-tolls today are funding a corrupt scheme,” Duvenage claimed.