E-tolls new ‘desperation’: SANRAL’s 6th attempt to launch it's defunct scheme
Then on 25 February 2012, the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan announced the scheme would finally be launched on 30 April 2012. They were unable to do so, because the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) had interdicted the launch, siting a grossly irrational, unjust and unworkable system.
Whilst the courts set aside OUTA’s application on a technicality in 2013, the irrationality and unlawfulness of the e-toll decision still hangs over the e-tolls scheme’s head, which will be tested if and when the authorities ever attempt to prosecute anyone for non-payment of e-tolls.
Despite being given the go ahead by the Constitutional Court to launch e-tolls as far back as September 2012 (while the merits of the scheme were being address in court), SANRAL was unable to do so – largely because they had still not addressed the workability of the scheme, along with a suitable regulatory environment for it to succeed.
By December 2013, they assumed they had all their ducks in a row and went ahead with the launch of the highly criticized scheme, only to find out seven months later, by June 2014, the e-toll scheme had failed to muster the compliance of 45% of the road users – despite threats of criminal prosecutions. In short, the scheme failed and today it has less than 25% compliance. For a user-pays scheme of this nature to succeed, a minimum of 85 to 90% compliance is essential.
On 20 May this year, the Deputy President announced a re-launch of the defunct scheme under the guise of a new dispensation with lower rates and easier conditions. Whilst the cap has been reduced by 50%, as mentioned in SANRAL’s own adverts, this cap reduction will have no impact on more than 93% of the freeway users. Furthermore, the rates which have been reduced are the old standard tariffs which very few people were paying to begin with, meaning the discounts offered have been hollow and are in effect, a meaningless attempt to bring society on board.
“This New Dispensation should be described more aptly as a New Desperation and in OUTA’s opinion it will fail again, as the issue has gone way beyond the rates. It’s not about the tariffs but more about the irrationality of the cumbersome scheme which is grossly inefficient and a waste of tax-payers time and money,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s chairperson.
Furthermore, SANRAL’s talk of phasing in the updated scheme over the next 18 months, is a clear indication of their non-readiness and the continued unworkability of the system. In short, they are relying on the successful national implementation of AARTO in order to introduce the enforcement of the withholding of vehicle licenses, which in turn they believe will resolve their problems. However, OUTA believes that SANRAL’s problems are far greater than enforcement and the government will be attracting more unintended consequences of this development, if indeed they ever get it right. Many question whether AARTO will every fly and like e-tolls, this system has missed numerous implementation “deadlines” over the past seven years.
OUTA maintains from its extensive research, that in the context and backdrop of the South African regulatory and poor administrative competence environment, the e-toll scheme will never achieve the required levels of compliance for success, no matter how many millions of tax-payers rands they pump into their advertising campaign.