SANRAL continues to mislead
For example, the release of e-tag sales numbers are merely a ploy to create the impression that the public are flocking to purchase e-tags, which is clearly not the case, as the total figure of over 700,000 includes large fleet operators, banks, car rental companies, government fleet and leasing companies. SANRAL have yet to confirm how many actual individual road users have purchased an e-tag which we suspect is a much smaller proportion of total e-tag sales.
Recently, the spokesman for SANRAL, Mr Vusi Mona claimed on 31 July 2013 that “If you are one of those paying the maximum amount [R450 cap], you will have traveled through 301 gantries and done an average of 2 760 km during the month on the e-tolled roads. That is, of course, if you are fitted with an e-tag and have an up-to-date registered account.”
Yet when using SANRAL’s own e-toll calculator on their website and taking an average of three different commuter routes at e-tag rates during standard commuter times, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) was able to show that far less kilometers (average of 1598 km), through almost half the number of gantries (average of 163) could be traversed to reach the R450 cap at an average of 28c/km.
One must then ask the question, how can SANRAL make the statement that only 1% of Gauteng freeway users will reach the R450 cap. “1% of what number?” asks Duvenage. If one takes the one million or so frequent/daily commuters on these freeways, estimates are that at least 250,000 motorists i.e. 25% or more of these motorists will reach monthly e-toll charges of around R400 and more.
In another incident of misleading information, on the 1st July 2013, in an article published by iTWeb, Mr Vusi Mona of SANRAL implied their multi-million marketing campaign was a resounding success. He stated that e-tag sales had risen by more than 100%, boosting their e-tag numbers sold from 250,000 at the end of April 2013, to 600 000 within six weeks to mid June 2013. What Mr. Mona forgot or didn’t realize is the Department of Transport and SANRAL had on a number of occasions, throughout 2012 an into early 2013, reported their e-tag sales at 500,000 and 600,000, i.e. well above the April 2013 number of 250,000 reported by Mr Mona. In other words, their marketing campaign was actually a flop and remains so to this day.
“We simply don’t believe their rhetoric in this space” says Duvenage. They have mislead the public before and we are convinced they are doing this again to create false impressions of acceptance of their system. The simple truth is the public are not taking this lying down. In addition, when SANRAL release statistic’s there is no opportunity to review the data or challenge the methodology. In fact, over the years we have highlighted fundamental flaws in SANRAL’s e-toll arguments. The 8:1 much promoted benefits, based on their economic impact study, was even dismissed by a former Minister of Transport Sbu’ Ndebele, when asked about this matter in parliament in October 2011. The cost of the collection has also been misrepresented and the fact is that the SANRAL CEO’s own affidavit submitted to court offered different cost and revenue calculations over different time periods and was in conflict with similar information provided in Treasury’s affidavits. In short, the public must exercise great caution when being asked to believe SANRAL’s statements.
In addition, virtually all snap polls and surveys within the social media space indicate 90% plus rejection of e-tolls and some indicating 85% or more of the public may not get e-tags.
No matter how SANRAL wants to suggest their collection cost “of compliant users” at 17% is acceptable, this is grossly out of line with international benchmarks, which are generally between 5% and 10%, including defaulter costs. What makes this matter worse though, is SANRAL’s omission of the Violations Processing Centre (VPC) and the total cost impact of the non-compliant road users and debt collections in their overall cost of operation, which effectively pushes the e-toll collection ratio closer to 30% of the revenue generated, which is grossly irrational and a waste of money.
“We would like to again make it clear to the public that they are not in violation of any law if they do not get an e-tag” says Duvenage. OUTA will shortly release details of its strategy to empower society with knowledge of their rights, plus legal advice in cases of being stopped by the so called e-toll police and finally, the support of a strong legal counsel and team to tackle the case of the first person who is summonsed for non-payment of their e-toll bills. This first case will be the test case wherein the arguments which will prove SANRAL’s unlawful conduct and transgression of the public’s constitutional rights will be heard and ruled on.
Until then, OUTA urges the public to exercise civil courage and know that it is not only their right, but their duty to resist and reject a law which has been implemented in a manner that works against the best interests of the people for whom it is intended to serve.