E-tolls: to tag or not and if not, then what?
In short, motorists are extremely angry about the treatment they are receiving from SANRAL over the e-toll fiasco.
OUTA has put together this overview, which we trust will be helpful and offer some practical information, guidance and courage to deal with this matter:
1. Please understand that OUTA cannot advise you on the course of action to take. This is a choice you must make and we trust the following information may assist you in your decision.
2. The legal, ethical and financial complexities need to be assessed by each motorist and since things are still in their early stages, there are too many unknowns in the situation to give specific advice to any individual.
3. OPTIONS: Freeway users have TWO broad options to take and within each of these, two sub-options:
a. To Register with SANRAL
i. Get an e-tag – and comply, and pay the discounted rate.
ii. To register your number plate but with no tag – and comply,
i.e. pay the standard tariff.
b. Not to register with SANRAL
i. Not to tag – but then pay the Alternative User tariffs, if SANRAL sends you an invoice, which correctly depicts your vehicle’s gantry movements.
ii. Not to tag – and NOT to pay. i.e. civil courage and outright defiance of the system.Option (a.ii) and (b.i) above almost defeat the object of not tagging. i.e. SANRAL enjoy higher revenues, albeit slightly delayed in some instances, while Option (b.ii) is the option that will bring the e-toll system down, should sufficient motorists adopt this stance.
4. What are your rights?
The Bill of Rights specifically guarantees the right of freedom of conscience. However no one can dictate to anyone else’s conscience. Freedom of conscience means exactly that, with the emphasis on freedom. One can stir the conscience of others by sharing experiences of injustice, exploitation, and asking hard questions, but ultimately the decision must be left up to an individual to make given their specific circumstances.
The international and local human rights principle of “prior, free (meaningful and fair) informed consent” is at stake. OUTA has argued from the outset that the declaration of the relevant roads as tolled freeways was made without that principle having been honoured, and consequently users of a public road are paying for something that they were never consulted about. The very fact that there is now such overwhelming opposition is in itself evidence of that failure.
5. OUTA’s past Court Challenge
While SANRAL continues to say the court has decided on the essential lawfulness of e-tolls, it has not. OUTA’s case was set aside on a technicality (within administration law), for the time taken to bring the matter to court. The Supreme Court however expressly indicating the lawfulness of SANRAL’s actions still needs to be tested and tested it will be, in such an instance when someone is summonsed for failing to pay for e-tolls (and there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands that are not paying e-tolls). In this case, the technical arguments do not apply and the Judge(s) will have to hear the detailed arguments and input pertaining to SANRAL’s behavior when seeking approval from Cabinet to introduce e-tolls. In this regard, OUTA has a wealth of information pertaining to SANRAL’s unlawful and misleading behavior, which we will bring to a qualifying court challenge on e-tolls, should we raise the necessary funds from society to cover the legal costs.
As of Mid January 2014, OUTA’s research shows that of the approximately 2,3 million average Freeway users in Gauteng per month, some 25% are fitted with e-tags. This includes all the Government fleets, Car Rental and Leasing company fleets etc. This leaves about 1,7 million freeway users (75%) WITHOUT e-tags. All indications point to the bulk of people who intended to get e-tags, will have done so by now, with a small amount still begrudgingly getting tags out of fear and frustration with SANRAL’s intimidation messages. However, even if 25% of the currently un-tagged people pay or get tags, this still leaves well over ONE million people not paying. This in essence becomes an extremely successful rejection en defiance campaign against the system. The obvious question then becomes, can or will SANRAL (or the National Prosecuting Authority) practically set out to, or succeed in, criminalizing over ONE million citizens, or even 500,000 people for that matter. The answer is ‘extremely unlikely’.
SANRAL have and will continue to feed society with propaganda on the number of e-tags sold, in an attempt to create the impression that people are happily rushing out to get e-tags. The media have exposed SANRAL for disseminating false information in this regard in the past and our recent research indicates a gross overstatement of e-tag sales by SANRAL. Their integrity is questionable in this regard.
7. International Research:
Research by academics and OUTA’s own evaluation of why e-tolling succeeds and why it fails in many parts of the world, has revealed interesting findings. Successful e-tolling projects resulted from excellent public engagement in environments where good public transport systems exist. Research on failed e-toll projects (and there are many) reveals findings which point largely to:
(a) high costs of tolling,
(b) complexities within the process and most importantly,
(c) a general lack of support from society.The e-toll plan for Gauteng has one of the lowest compliance levels at start up, and contains many of the problems that correlate to failure. More detail and the results of this research will be released late January 2014.
8. Additional effort by OUTA:
Public Protector: Following the debacle, fiasco and outrage of the public experiences since the launch of e-tolling, OUTA has requested the intervention of the Public Protector (PP), and in so doing, is not asking the PP in investigate the court decision (the constitution specifically states that she may not do so), but merely seeks the Public Protector to mediate a growing conflict between a State entity whom we allege is failing to honour the values and principles of the constitution in the way they are dealing with the public through the implementation of e-tolling. We are asking SANRAL to demonstrate a commitment to the bill of rights by engaging with the users of the freeways with “accountability, responsiveness and openness” as the very first clause of the Constitution states. As Human Rights campaigner Mary Robinson once said, “Human rights belong to the people, not to Government”, and we add, certainly not to SANRAL.
Finally when motorists would like to log a complaint about e-tolling, we suggest they do the following:-
a. Log their complaints with OUTA. Unfortunately, we will probably not be able to resolve your problem, but your notification thereof will give us an overview of the types of complaints and issues being experienced by the public and helps with our Public Protector submission.
b. We also suggest you log your complaint directly with SANRAL at their call centre: 0800 726725, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
c. If you have the time, you may also want to post your issue with SANRAL on the HelloPeter website. Another one of OUTA’s roles is to empower society with knowledge and facts about e-tolling developments. Keep checking the OUTA website and OUTA Facebook Page for updates. Finally, if you are able to assist us with a donation, please feel free to do so. These funds help us administer and fight the cause of halting the unjust e-toll system, on behalf of society.
Whatever your choice, its yours to make and be proud of.