The announcement by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that outstanding e-toll fees will be linked to the licence renewal system cannot be enforced immediately, and amended regulations will have to be published for public comment on the matter.
This is according to Justice Project South Africa, which said the withholding of licence discs due to e-toll non-payment may “not pass constitutional muster”.
“Interested parties will have 30 days from the time of publication of that government gazette [containing the amended regulations] to make written representations to the Department of Transport,” said JPSA.
“JPSA is of the opinion that withholding the issue of licence discs… would be tantamount to forcing a person who has in fact paid licence fees to renew their licence, but to whom a licence disc has been refused, to contravene the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2000 by not displaying a current licence as prescribed.”
During its announcement of the new e-toll dispensation, Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters said the review panel was aware that legislative changes will be needed to link licence disc renewals to e-tolls.
The pending Aarto Amendment Bill could be used to effect the necessary changes, she added.
JPSA said even if the amendments were passed, there was no guarantee that withholding licence discs would encourage motorists to pay e-tolls.
“In fact, quite the opposite is true and the possibility of a whole new industry of mass false licence disc production could become a very real possibility.”
“If this provision does go through and people dig their heels in, it may be found by the Gauteng Provincial Government and all licensing authorities in Gauteng that the tactic of withholding licence discs will have a profound negative impact on their own licensing income revenues.”
JPSA said it was a pity the government had insisted with “what has already demonstrated itself to be a failed and unworkable system”.
With regards to current legislation, there are only 4 instances where a licence disc may lawfully be withheld, according to JPSA. These are:
- When there are outstanding licensing fees or penalties on those outstanding licensing fees present for any vehicle registered in the name of the licensee;
- The vehicle in question has been suspended due to a roadworthy issue or requires a roadworthy certificate to be issued before a licence disc may be issued;
- When a warrant of arrest has been issued against the licensee; or
- When an AARTO Enforcement Order has been issued against the licensee.
According to Dembovsky, not displaying a current licence disc is, under the AARTO Act, a minor infringement which results in a R250 fine (discounted by 50% if paid within 32 days).
“The consequence of not paying such a fine could, after the prescribed period and processes have ensued, lead to an enforcement order being issued, thereby blocking licensing transactions on eNaTIS against the person whose licence disc has already been refused.”
“In other words, that person would then not only have unpaid e-tolls and no licence disc, but would also have one or more unpaid traffic fines which can currently proceed no further than an enforcement order and would therefore constitute no real further consequence,” he said.