The hundreds of thousands of motorists who have refused to pay e-tolls are in good company — major municipalities are in arrears to the tune of millions of rands.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters disclosed in parliament this week that Gauteng municipalities owed the SA National Roads Agency a total of R2.4-million, triggering an outcry from politicians and glee from anti-tolling activists.
The Ekurhuleni Metro is the biggest offender with arrears of R1.838-million, followed by Tshwane (R351644), Emfuleni Local Municipality (R127685) and Lesedi Local Municipality (R111000). All the councils are controlled by the ANC, which officially supports the new e-toll dispensation, announced in May. It contains significantly reduced tariffs. Peters made the disclosure about the arrears in response to a parliamentary question by the DA. She said the municipalities would benefit from a 60% discount in terms of the new e-tolls tariffs.
But these have yet to come into effect. The DA said yesterday it was “pure hypocrisy” that the government called on citizens and businesses to buy e-tags and pay tolls when a number of municipalities refused to pay the tolls. DA transport spokesman Manny de Freitas said: “The government is being blatantly unfair by expecting citizens to do something they aren’t prepared to. “The people of Gauteng have also spoken loud and clear in their rejection of e-tolls‚ and their voices have been largely ignored.
“Now even ANC -governed municipalities have rejected e- tolls.” He said not only were some municipalities not paying e-toll bills but some had not even signed up for e-tags. “Emfuleni [in Gauteng] has not registered a single one of its vehicles for e-tags.” Civic organisations opposed to e-tolling have cheered municipalities’ failure to pay. “It is negative compliance. Municipalities not paying for e-tolls is an open invitation for e- toll payers to defy authority, said a spokesman for the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance,” John Clarke.
“If you want people to listen and obey authority they have to show themselves as authority and practise what they preach. “The ANC is losing support because it is not serving in the interests of society, and people are using e-tolls as a proxy protest to delegitimise the state. This is a peaceful, non-violent way to protest against the government,” Clarke said. Attempts to get comment from Sanral were unsuccessful last night. The Times understands that discussions about the non- payment had begun. The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality said it could not confirm that it owed Sanral R1.8-million and would engage with the agency to “confirm and reconcile” records.
‘‘The metro has registered all vehicles determined by the various departments to be travelling through e-toll gantries and those were issued with e-tags. In addition, we have registered all our emergency service vehicles,” it said. The Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality said it could not confirm or deny the outstanding amount on its e-toll bills, but the municipality was in the process of paying.
“There is no dispute between the municipality and Electronic Toll Collection,” said spokes man Selby Bokaba. “It is simply a matter of getting the invoices in the correct VAT format. E-toll accounts are treated like any other and should be processed and paid monthly.” In May, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced discounts of up to 60% on existing e-toll bills after studying a report by a panel appointed by Gauteng premier David Makhura. The panel had been asked to assess the socioeconomic impact of the tolls after sustained opposition to them.
There are no clear indications that Gauteng motorists have been paying their bills in increased numbers since Ramaphosa’s announced reductions, which have yet to come into effect. Last month, Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said Sanral’s e-toll debt would continue to mount because it needed to collect R260-million a month to fulfil its commitments but was bringing in only an estimated R60-million to R70-million.
Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona reportedly said the e-tolling shortfall would be about R390-million a year, but that this would be funded through the National Treasury. He said that at the end of May motorists had paid more than R80-million, which was significantly above Sanral’s forecasts. Sanral has come under fire for misleading consumers by advertising and suggesting that the new e-toll dispensation and associated discounts were already available. In fact, the 60% discount on e-toll bills has not yet come into effect.
According to Leon Grobler, a dispute resolution manager at the Advertising Standards Authority, the reductions would come into effect only when signed into law. “So we have asked Sanral to remove the advertising. If there are repeat breaches, there are various other sanctions we could look at,” he said.
-TimesLIVE/RDM News Wire