Collecting outstanding e-toll bills – not without a fight

 ·26 Feb 2024

Civil action group, Outa, has called out the Gauteng provincial government for creating even more confusion around e-tolls and what is to be done with any outstanding bills.

Responding to a Moneyweb interview with deputy director-general of public finance at National Treasury Mampho Modise this week, Outa accused the government of being indecisive and incapable of implementing its own policies.

In the interview, Modise was quoted saying that “Gauteng has agreed that (the outstanding e-toll) debt should and will be collected”. This was referring specifically to the debts owed by motorists, according to the publication.

Outa said that Modise’s comments made no sense, given that any debt held by motorists would have to be collected by road agency Sanral – a national competency – and not the Gauteng provincial government, which is now in charge of paying the balance of the debt.

“What makes the threat of going after those with outstanding e-toll debts even more confusing is that Sanral stopped issuing summonses against e-toll defaulters in 2019, and most of this debt has now prescribed,” said Wayne Duvenage, Outa’s CEO.

Finance minister Enoch Godongwana announced the end of e-tolls in November 2022, with the national government covering 70% of the debt owed in the system and leaving the Gauteng provincial government in charge of covering the remaining 30%, equating to over R12 billion.

In January 2023, Gauteng’s Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, made headlines by stating that R6.9 billion paid in e-toll bills would be refunded to those who had paid e-tolls. Lesufi later backtracked on this and denied saying it.

During his latest 2024 State of the Province Address, Lesufi announced that e-tolls will be switched off by 31 March. He also said the Gauteng provincial government has agreed to pay R12 billion towards Sanral’s e-toll debt to finalise the matter.

“We are left more confused than ever by the latest announcement by Modise,” Duvenage said.

“Between Sanral, Premier Lesufi, Minister Godongwana and the Department of Transport, it seems that nobody knows what is really going on when it comes to finalising the e-toll debacle.”

If the government does try to go after motorists again for the outstanding debt, Duvenage said Outa still has a standing test case on the constitutionality of e-tolls, which was “placed on hold” when Sanral’s board passed a resolution to stop e-toll summonses.

Should it meet the requirements, he said that Outa will defend motorists against such collections.

“We will not merely accept the government’s irrational plan to collect debt on their inefficient, costly and largely unworkable system – especially since they themselves announced that e-tolls will be cancelled,” Duvenage said.

While Lesufi announced the “switch off” of e-tolls on 31 March 2024, this cannot be formally done until the regulations enabling the system have been repealed and the related laws unwound.

Read: The official end of e-tolls is in sight

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