Posted on 26-09-2012
Filed Under (Industry News) by Chloe Davies

Johannesburg – Does the government have the wherewithal to handle civil disobedience threatened by 2 million disgruntled motorists?

This is the question being asked by the AA and the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa).

Outa chairman Wayne Duvenhage says laws and policies are no good unless they are enforced, and with such huge public opposition, the government will find it logistically and practically difficult to enforce the tolls.

It will cost R1.7 billion a year to operate and costs will be much higher without motorists’ buy-in.

“Out of 500 000 e-tags sold, 200 000 have gone to corporates and banks, meaning that less than 20 percent of motorists have shown their willingness to buy into the system,” he said.

Another factor that will prevent motorists from buying e-tags is the Constitutional Court case to be heard in November. “There are still processes to be followed which could take a few weeks.”

Duvenhage questioned why the government should “pitch this fight and push people, who are already stretched, to this limit”.

“The fuel levy is available for the funding of roads and it is a much easier way of collecting money,” he said.

The AA agrees. Spokesman Gary Ronald said because public transport was being excluded from tolling, the “usual suspects” were left to foot the bill.

The issue of civil disobedience will be the next hurdle for the government to overcome.

If the public rallied together and stood firmly against tolling by not registering for e-tags and flagrantly disregarding tolling costs and consequent fines, Ronald said the authority’s ability to manage the large numbers of disgruntled motorists would come into question.

The government said on Thursday that it expected to start e-tolling before the November review.

Cosatu warned the government not to “even think” about implementing e-tolls until consultations were done, and threatened mass action should they be implemented.

The DA’s Jack Bloom said he was sure the public would “react badly to this judgment, as people are still very angry about the tolls”.

“We could see an Arab Spring arising out of the e-tolls,” said Justice Project’s Howard Dembovsky.

AfriForum and Outa both appealed to the public to wait until the outcome of the judicial review before registering for e-tolling.

“The decision today technically grants Sanral an opportunity to launch e-tolling in Gauteng. However, much has yet to be done before they can do so,” the alliance said.

This included publishing the revised terms and conditions and tariff prices and providing clarity on e-toll exemptions.

The alliance also wants Sanral to clarify the regulations of the “so-called e-toll police” and the enforcement method for paying fees.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke handed down the unanimous judgment in Concourt effectively setting aside the interdict against the e-toll system as the High Court had not considered the separation of powers between the courts and the executive.

Justice Moseneke said the separation of powers was vital to SA’s constitutional democracy.

The national executive was responsible for public resources and, “absent of fraud or corruption”, had the power and prerogative to implement and finance projects, with Parliament’s approval.

Sanral’s lawyer David Unterhalter SC argued in Concourt last month that the system was lawful and could be implemented in two weeks if given the go-ahead.

The Transport Department welcomed the Concourt decision.

Sanral declined to comment.

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