SANRAL’s latest “rent-a-thug” tactic may well backfire

JOHANNESBURG – In light of the fact that OUTA has made it public and the AA has weighed in on the latest tactic adopted by SANRAL in appointing a debt collection firm to hound people for payment of e-tolls, JPSA feels it appropriate to also comment on this issue.

The threatening SMS messages which are allegedly attributable to ITC Business Administrators (Pty) Ltd read: “We have noted your refusal to pay your outstanding e-toll balance. Your vehicle details are being submitted for listing, and legal action will commence with costs incurred. Call 087 353 1490 Ref …”

While no nasty and unconscionable tactics adopted by SANRAL and contrived to threaten and intimidate motorists regarding e-tolls surprises us, it is somewhat strange that SANRAL has chosen to do so just half way through the so-called “new dispensation” wherein a discount of 60% on outstanding e-tolls bills is being extended to those who choose to take advantage of this offer before 1 MAY 2016. In our view, this can only be interpreted as meaning that SANRAL’s “less 60%” campaign has already failed to achieve the desired results.

As SANRAL’s spokesperson, Vusi Mona correctly states, “This is not an amnesty or a debt write-off” however, what he conveniently fails to mention is that motorists still have more than 11 weeks to go to decide whether they wish to take advantage of it or not.

By already hiring a debt collection firm to start threatening motorists, SANRAL has again proven its male fides (bad faith) and unscrupulous business ethics. It must not be forgotten that SANRAL has previously threatened people with criminal records for non-payment of e-tolls and has abandoned that particular extortive practice since it became apparent (on 7 December 2015) that they and the Department of Transport had finally acknowledged that the AARTO Act and not the Criminal Procedure Act must be used to prosecute alleged offenders.

Furthermore, the matter of the already established noncompliance of electronic equipment installed in SANRAL’s gantries with the Legal Metrology Act, from which SANRAL is not exempt is still to be settled and could render every single invoice SANRAL has generated illegal. Should this be the case, it would be unusual for our courts to issue an order that SANRAL refunds those motorists who have paid illegal invoices, given the favourite argument government’s lawyers like to use that “being ordered to refund would adversely affect service delivery”.

It is therefore JPSA’s considered opinion that SANRAL’s latest “rent-a-thug” tactic may well backfire on it, given the fact that people who were not intimidated by the hollow threat of incurring a criminal record are unlikely to feel more intimidated by having their vehicle particulars “listed” on some undefined and unknown “list” and having debt collectors hound them to death with equally hollow threats of “legal action”. Furthermore, logically thinking, financially embattled motorists may be a tad reluctant to part with cash they know they have little hope of recovering should SANRAL’s invoices be deemed to have been illegally generated.