Licence disc renewal refusal NOT attributable to e-tolls

JOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa has become aware of the fact that members of the public are being refused licence disc renewals for their vehicles and that misinformation and often outrageous explanations as to why this is happening is prolific.

This misinformation has taken various forms, the latest of which is saying that the transaction is being refused on the basis of outstanding e-tolls

For once, Mr Mona has correctly stated in his response to the article, “The required changes to enable the withholding of licence discs for e-toll debt have not been made”. This refreshing, albeit highly unusual change in his behaviour is most welcome.

The fact is that this legislative change will have to be published for public comment prior to enacting it and at that time, it will be vigorously challenged by JPSA.

The issue with the gentleman cited in the referenced article was resolved within minutes of him calling JPSA for clarity on Thursday 2 July.

The misinformation doing the rounds is not limited to e-tolls however and whilst some of it originates from licensing authorities who tell people that they must settle all of their traffic fines before they can get their licence disc – which is not true – counter staff at the South African Post Office tend to send motorists into a flat spin by informing them that there is a warrant of arrest out for them.

While the existence of a warrant of arrest is one of the reasons that a licence disc may be withheld, it is far from the only reason and is in fact the least common reason for this happening.

The real reasons for licence disc renewals to be lawfully and automatically refused by the eNaTIS system is one or more of the following:

  • The existence of licensing arrears and penalties thereon for any vehicle, whether motorised or not registered in the name of the motorist;
  • The lack of a roadworthy certificate where this is required;
  • The existence of an enforcement order issued under the AARTO Act; and/or
  • The existence of a warrant of arrest issued under the Criminal Procedure Act, except that this type of administrative block is more prevalent in Cape Town than anywhere else in the country.

By far, the most prolific reason for the refusal of any licensing transactions is the existence of an enforcement order issued under the AARTO Act. The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), which previously failed to escalate infringement notices to courtesy letters and then to enforcement orders has been issuing enforcement orders at an alarming rate for at least the past four months and people who have become used to ignoring their traffic fines have found themselves falling foul of this.

The effect of an enforcement order under the AARTO Act is to block all licensing transactions, including licence disc and driving licence renewal, vehicle transfers and new vehicle registrations. The existence of a single enforcement order is sufficient to block all licensing transactions for all vehicles registered in the name of the person or entity against whom it has been issued.

While any person may make application for the revocation of an enforcement order, this process is tedious and as far as we are aware, few applications are successful.

No motorist is compelled to admit guilt by paying any traffic fine, and therefore they do not have to “settle all of their fines” before they renew their licence disc. JPSA does however encourage members of the public to deal with their traffic fines timeously and before they reach a stage where they are adversely affected.

Any traffic authority which holds that a motorist is compelled to admit guilt by paying any traffic fine needs to examine Section 35(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa which, amongst other things, holds that every accused person has the right to be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a properly constituted court. This is equally applicable to criminal and administrative law. It would be nice if these authorities would stick to the legislated processes instead of taking shortcuts and lying to people.

JPSA would like to urge licensing authorities, traffic departments, Metros and the South African Post Office, as well as members of the public to refrain from the highly irresponsible practice of disseminating misinformation which, in turn causes widespread confusion, flared tempers and panic.

If a member of the public is refused a licence disc renewal, they should ask their licensing authority for an eNaTIS R114 statement and look for the existence of any of the conditions we have listed. Motorists may also check for the existence of one or more enforcement orders at by choosing the “query my fines” option.

First meaningful clarity on the “new e-tolls dispensation” exposes continued smoke and mirrors - again

On Wednesday 20 May 2015, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa made an announcement with respect to the “new dispensation for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project” wherein a number of specific changes to the e-tolling policy “as approved by Cabinet” were announced.

Almost a month later, on Wednesday 17 June, two notices signed by the Director General of Transport and SANRAL’s CEO were published in government gazette 38884 under notice numbers 524 and 525 respectively.

e-toll tariffs applicable from 2 July 2015

Notice number 524 refers to new e-toll tariffs to come into effect from 2 July 2015 and the tariff of approximately 30c per kilometre is to continue to apply to registered e-tag users but is to be extended to registered VLN users who were previously expected to pay approximately 58c per kilometre.

Both types of registered users still have to sign SANRAL’s 2012 terms and conditions which have been publicly stated as being “90% compliant with the Consumer Protection Act” (meaning that they are 100% non-compliant) on registering with SANRAL and both categories of registered user must be prepaid users or have a payment method acceptable to SANRAL linked to their SANRAL e-toll account in order to qualify for this rate.

If these registered users don’t have a prepaid account with a sufficient positive balance to cover the transaction, or don’t have a payment method acceptable to SANRAL linked to their SANRAL e-toll account will be charged the “alternate user tariff”, and will have 31 days to pay the “alternate user tariff” which is now THREE TIMES higher than the registered user tariff – approximately 90c per kilometre.

Registered users will however be extended a 31 day “grace period” from time of passing under a gantry in which to pay the “alternate user tariff” without an invoice being generated or 30 days from invoice to pay at a “discounted” rate equivalent to the tariff they would ordinarily pay.

“Unregistered alternate users” however will still have only 7 days “grace period” to pay and are NOT similarly entitled to the so-called “discount”, nor are they entitled to the so-called “capped amount” hailed to be so helpful to the budgets of South Africans. If unregistered alternate users pay within the 7 days “grace period”, they will be charged the “standard tariff” of approximately 30c per kilometre. If however they don’t pay within the 7 days “grace period” but do pay before an invoice is issued by SANRAL or within 30 days of the date of the invoice they will receive a 60% discount on the alternate user tariff, making the tariff they must pay approximately 36c per kilometre*.

Two gantries, namely “Inkovu (N4-1)” and “Penguin (N4-1)” have been deleted from the list of gantries, reducing the total list from 49 to 47 gantries.

Discount on previously incurred e-tolls

A discount of 60% will indeed be applicable on previously incurred e-tolls and for a specific period at some time in the future, however this will NOT be applicable until such time as the Director General publishes a notice giving effect to it.

Therefore, no-one is currently entitled to this settlement discount despite it appearing in this notice and having been announced almost a month ago.

Conditions for payment of e-tolls

Notice number 525 refers to SANRAL’s conditions of where to pay and what payment methods they will accept.

“Day passes” are still a firm feature

It is notable that the so-called “day pass” remains a feature of the e-tolling system. There is no mention in either notice of the “30 free gantry passes” for out of Towner’s referenced by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa when this “new dispensation” was announced. If such a feature existed, it would or should have been included in the notice number 524 tariff gazette. It’s not.

JPSA’s comments on the overall “new dispensation”

Sadly, Justice Project South Africa is not in the least bit surprised by the fact that the PR exercise announcing the so-called “new e-tolls dispensation” and what has been published in the government gazette notices in question, particularly in the tariff gazette, whilst sort-of resembling one another, don’t actually match one another.

Road users have once again been misled with respect to the tariff they will be expected to pay – with the repeatedly stated rate of 30c per kilometre again being used to mislead them. The fact is that those who are not registered with or choose not to register with SANRAL and waive the protections afforded to them by the Consumer Protection Act in the process will be expected to pay 20% more** if they don’t pay within 7 days, and three times that tariff if they don’t pay within 30 days from invoice.

The fact still remains that a considerably high proportion of daily GFIP road users are not and most likely will not easily become registered with SANRAL. Furthermore, the e-tolls system has not, even by a long stretch of the imagination, been uncomplicated by even a small degree as recommended by Premier David Makhura’s “e-tolls review panel” and the collection methods remain expensive, cumbersome and burdensome to everyone. SANRAL is still trying to economically blackmail road users into registering with them and the interests of SANRAL’s business partners, Kapsch and ETC have continued to be firmly protected so they may continue to profit from unregistered road users.

This tariff gazette unfortunately but as expected further exposes the smoke and mirrors methodology of public announcements made in the past, and now by the latest messenger of e-tolling propaganda, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

JPSA further points out that it must be remembered that these two notices do not and cannot deal with the threats of withholding licence discs on the basis of outstanding e-tolls. Such amendments to the e-road regulations under the SANRAL Act MUST be published for public comment and JPSA will use the opportunity to argue against that preposterous idea as and when the opportunity arises.

JPSA does not disseminate information which is not completely true and correct. We have therefore edited this release to correct errors.

* We previously stated that the charge would be "approximately 54c per kilometre".  This was a calculation error, for which we apologise.

** We previously stated that alternate users would have to pay almost double the tariff if they didn't pay within 7 days. This too was due to the calculation error stated above.

Linking e-tolls to licence discs

Since the Deputy President’s announcement on Tuesday 20 May 2015 wherein it was stated that e-tolls would be linked to licence disc renewals, Justice Project South Africa has received numerous queries with respect to whether this concept would be "legal".

As things stand right now, this provision, along with all of the other changes announced around e-tolls yesterday will have to be reduced to writing in the form draft regulations amendments and such draft published for public comment. Interested parties will then have 30 days from the time of publication of that government gazette to make written representations to the Department of Transport.

Only when that process has completed and the Minister of Transport has applied her mind to all of the submissions received, may she publish amended regulations and proclaim a commencement date therefor.

JPSA is of the opinion that withholding the issue of licence discs, whilst sounding easy enough, may not pass constitutional muster since, amongst other things, it would be tantamount 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.

Even if this proposed amendment were to pass constitutional muster, there is no guarantee whatsoever that holding motorists to ransom by withholding a licence disc would have the desired effect of forcing people to pay their outstanding e-toll bills.

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. Displaying a counterfeit licence disc is a serious criminal offence for which a person would be charged criminally and such counterfeit discs can be detected by the equipment contained in the now infamous “e-toll roadblocks” SANRAL vans and trucks.

Not displaying a current licence disc is however, 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.

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.

With Gauteng’s vehicle population being the greatest in South Africa (38.87% of the country’s total vehicle population of 11,493,608 as at 31 March 2015) the licensing fees generated in Gauteng are far from chump-change and if people stop paying them, this will represent a significant revenue drain for the province and for the Department of Transport.

It is indeed a pity that government has insisted on persisting with trying to make what has already demonstrated itself to be a failed and unworkable system, which is additionally enormously unpopular and entirely inappropriate for South Africa work.