The 3rd of December 2014 marks the anniversary of
the implementation of e-tolls in Gauteng. The 1st anniversary – not
its birthday, because it was somewhat stillborn and has failed to materialise
into the “masterpiece” and “better/only way to go” everyone, including but not
limited to the highest court in the land was told it would be.
Amidst the repeated threats of dire and life-altering/ending
consequences levelled at motorists for not complying with these unjust laws
enacted to compel compliance, ordinary folk got angry, dug their heels in and
didn’t run off to register with SANRAL. They then went further and refused to
pay. In essence, the practice of hurling
rocks and burning tyres was replaced with tightly zipped wallets and the
occasional drive around the GFIP by groups of defiant, fed-up and cash-strapped
citizens. Banners slung over bridges on the freeway saying “hoot against
e-tolls” produced a daily tumultuous, trumpeting symphony of horns.
Compliance is and remains very low and essentially, very few
outside of the realms of big business and government departments have
registered with and more importantly, are paying SANRAL. The “user-pays
principle” is effectively the “some users pay principle” and the uncollected
revenues are building by the day, just like was predicted and warned by OUTA,
JPSA and others.
It’s a crying shame that the warnings and attempts to halt
the e-tolls egg from being scrambled resulted in little more than the
enrichment of lawyers and a materialisation of most, if not all of the warnings
presented by OUTA, JPSA and others. It’s a fact that Courts are interested in
what the law says and unfortunately, it’s also a fact that the law and the
practical implications thereof can sometimes be worlds apart.
It’s also a shame that what looks good on paper and what
happens in reality doesn’t always equate to the same thing. The policy of
e-tolling, just like Marxism, looks great on paper but fails to take the human
factor into account. Funnily enough, both share a common “enemy” which they
like to call “bourgeois society” and it would appear that the pro e-tolling
lobby’s belief that anti e-toll sentiment was merely an attempt to protect
privilege has backfired because, in actual fact e-tolling affects everyone with
a motor vehicle – not just the rich.
And then came the e-tolls review panel and a ray of hope
suddenly peered through the cracks in the system; but not without a concerted
attempt by all sorts of naysayers to discredit it and label it a sham. Amongst
the most vocal about the illegitimacy of the panel were SANRAL, the Minister of
Transport, the ruling and opposition political parties.
Despite the claims of illegitimacy, Premier Makhura and the
panel stood their ground and all of the critics – bar none ended up making
submissions to the panel – with SANRAL taking up the lion’s share of the time
afforded by the panel to individuals and organisations to present their case.
Now that the panel has delivered on its mandate to provide
the Premier with its report and recommendations by 30 November, the ball is
firmly in the court of the Premier and the Gauteng Provincial Government to do
something constructive with it. But this too has not come without criticism and
people simply can’t wait to get their hands on that report. Some have even launched
renewed criticism – labelling Makhura’s decision to study and discuss the report
with his Provincial Government before releasing it publicly as representing
“secrecy” and lending credence to their view that the entire process was a
It’s hard to blame people for distrusting anything
surrounding e-tolling, given the history of the dictatorial railroading of it
into existence and the repeated misinformation – otherwise referred to as lies
– that’s been forthcoming from SANRAL.
One thing is for certain though – e-tolling has
failed to raise the money to pay the investors in this scheme and ultimately,
no matter what the political ramifications of this happen to be, a realistic
financial solution to the problem has to be forthcoming. If that solution
results in an increase or decrease in votes, will depend on what political
solution is – or is not reached.
- Howard Dembovsky is the Chairperson of Justice Project South Africa