OUTA in awe of unprecedented public participation
This is arguably the largest amount of submissions ever received by government to proposed legislation amendments. The public will no doubt look forward to receiving feedback from the authorities on their inclusion of these submissions into their decision. Unlike petitions, Gazette comments have a critical role in the constitutional process and cannot be ignored by government, as it would open the door for a legal challenge by civil society.
This overwhelming public participation to a gazette is an indication of a growing active citizenry on a grand scale. It is also another major step in the fight against government’s efforts to coerce motorists into paying e-tolls, and is likely to stop government from being able to allege that such amendments are only opposed by a few people who have a problem with e-tolls, as they did with the declaration of the Gauteng freeways as toll roads.
Through various amendments to theAdministrative Adjudication of Traffic Offences Act (AARTO Act) and in media releases, government have made it clear that they are gearing up to use the AARTO Act and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), to collect outstanding e-toll fines and debt. By doing so, SANRAL - through the RTIA - will attempt to coerce motorists into compliance by withholding vehicle licences, drivers licenses and driver's permits for non-payment of e-tolls. The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has developed a multi-faceted strategy to protect its supporters against government’s attempts to stifle their rights.
Vusi Mona's comments of 6 January are severely downplaying the seriousness of the implications and consequences that could very well transpire if these regulations are passed.
If the proposed amendments are signed into law, government intends to use the AARTO procedure as follows to collect e-toll debts:
Non payment of e-tolls will be deemed a violation of section 58(1) of the National Road Traffic Act, i.e. failure to obey a traffic sign instructing a motorist to pay tolls.
Infringement notices will be sent to motorists via normal mail, e-mail or SMS. Previously infringement notices had to be sent via registered post.
All documentation sent by the RTIA will be deemed to have been received by the motorist within 10 days of having been sent.
Even if a motorist does not receive any of the documents and fails to settle these payments and 'fines', an enforcement order will be issued against the motorist together with an automatic instruction to block the issuing of any motor vehicle licence, driver's license or professional drivers permit.
Driving without a vehicle licence, drivers licence or professional permit is a criminal offence.
OUTA believes these amendments will have a detrimental impact on the public's rights to freedom of movement, and they should be deemed as unconstitutional. Furthermore, they will make the administration of AARTO unworkable and will most likely drive a justified public revolt against the payment of vehicle licences. If Mr Mona believes this warning as raised by OUTA is misplaced or unlikely, just as SANRAL believed prior to the civil disobedience campaign against e-tolls, he clearly has still not realized the extent and the power of the people.
OUTA's multi-pronged strategy to protect its supporters will entail amongst other things; the obtaining of interdicts forcing licensing authorities to issue licence and permits that were unlawfully withheld; the seeking of personal cost orders against senior officials responsible for giving instructions to withhold licenses and permits; the striking down of legislation unlawfully authorising government to withhold licenses and permits for non-payment of e-tolls; and the defence of their supporters in criminal court if summonsed for non-payment of e-tolls and/or driving an unlicensed vehicle, as a result of the non-payment of e-tolls.
“If government follows through with these ludicrous amendments, we will be ready to challenge them. When this happens, the merits of the legality of e-tolls can once and for all be tested in a court of law, and SANRAL will not be able to escape the arguments that need to be heard in a collateral challenge, which will obviate the technicalities in Administrative Law which allowed them to escape last time. They will then have to answer to the numerous transgressions and irrationalities of an unworkable system,” said Wayne Duvenage, Chairperson of OUTA.