The Democratic Alliance has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to decide on the future of e-tolls as a matter of urgency, before the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) takes effect in July 2021.
The party has previously raised concerns that in an earlier draft of the laws, operator class motor vehicles which do not pay e-tolls would be fined R500 and stand to lose one demerit point for every fine that is not paid.
In the recently gazetted regulations this has now been changed – however, the DA noted that while the motorist will not receive demerit points, a fine will still be incurred, “which is now double for failing to pay e-tolls,” it said.
While the act introduces a number of changes, the DA said that it can also be seen as just another way to force motorists to pay for e-tolls.
“The DA has always been against the implementation of e-tolls as this is an unfair burden on the residents of Gauteng who are already struggling to make ends meet.
“What is clear is that residents are not prepared to pay for e-tolls. We cannot have a situation where motorists are fined for something which they were not consulted on in the first place,” the party said.
The DA said that the government has previously committed to a decision about the future of e-tolls will be made ‘soon’. However, over a year later, no decision has yet been made.
“The e-toll system must be scrapped before it turns motorists into criminals,” the DA said.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula gazetted the latest draft of the administrative adjudication of road traffic offences (Aarto) regulations last week.
The 540-page directive states that the new Aarto Act is due for a national roll-out on 1 July 2021.
The future of e-tolls
In a media briefing on 1 October, Mbalula said that clarity on Gauteng’s e-tolls was needed as it impeded his department from rolling out new road infrastructure projects.
The minister said that president Cyril Ramamphosa’s cabinet is now set to finalise a new funding model for the project after receiving proposals from his department.
Mbalula admitted that he thought the issue would have been resolved by now, but that the process has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Now that we are easing the lockdown to level 1 we are prepared to expedite the roll-out of infrastructure projects and to also resolve the issue of the e-tolls,” he said.
In September, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) said that the government needs to urgently decide on the future of electronic tolls in Gauteng province, as the coronavirus cuts its cashflow.
“We’re having to scurry around to ensure our liquidity,” Sanral chief executive officer Skhumbuzo Macozoma told the Sunday Times.
Macozoma said the decision on whether to keep the system or scrap it rests with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet. Only about 20% of users are paying e-tolls, the Sunday Times reported.
If cancelled, Sanral’s debt related to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project will jump from around R40 billion to R67 billion. South Africa’s lockdown to curb coronavirus cost Sanral more than R620 million.
Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that his department is being impeded from rolling out new road infrastructure projects because of a lack of resolution around Gauteng’s e-tolls.