SANRAL’s propaganda goes into overdrive

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“Apart from annual tariff increases, no amendments to the ‘e-road regulations’ have been published since 2015.” This is according to Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of Justice Project South Africa, who was commenting on an article that appeared in the City Press over the weekend.

“The non-payment of toll may result in road users not being issued with their vehicle license disc, upon renewal of the vehicle license. Road users will be able to renew their licenses, but the disc itself will be withheld until the outstanding toll related infringements have been settled,” reads point 4 on SANRAL’s e-tolls website, under the heading: “New Dispensation for e-toll”.

While SANRAL’s spokesperson, Vusi Mona apparently insists that this is something new, it is not. SANRAL has been threatening this since the onset of the e-tolling debacle and the provision has always existed in the AARTO Act for enforcement orders to be issued against any outstanding infringement, including non-payment of e-tolls, to coerce payment of the fine. The net effect of an enforcement order is to programmatically block licensing transactions on the NaTIS.

Despite it being an issuing authority in the AARTO scheme, SANRAL has not issued a single infringement notice for failure to pay e-tolls since they came into force in December 2013. It has also failed to prosecute a single motorist for not paying e-tolls, using the Criminal Procedure Act, which applies outside of the jurisdictions of the JMPD and TMPD.

Dr Stoychev, who was convicted of fraud in 2015 plead guilty to displaying false number plates with the further intent to dodge e-tolls and traffic fines. Since then, no other cases have been brought before the criminal courts by SANRAL, which at the time, crowed how significant that conviction was.

In the absence of amendments to the “e-road regulations”, SANRAL’s best hope to withhold licensing transactions against motorists who fail to pay e-tolls rests in the AARTO Amendment Act, which retains fining for failure to pay e-toll, adds two new charge codes to enable it more specifically, and allows SANRAL to electronically serve infringement notices on alleged infringers instead of posting them using so-called “registered mail”.

Set for national implementation on 1 July 2021, the AARTO Amendment Act has been steeped in controversy regarding its clear objective of promoting revenue generation over road safety and placing an ominous administrative burden on motorists who are presumed guilty of any infringement.

The latest person to criticise the two schemes and how they are linked to one another, has been Gauteng’s MEC for Roads and Transport, Jacob Mamabolo. Shortly thereafter, Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula made yet another “promise” to make an announcement regarding the fate of e-tolling, by no later than the end of March 2021. Mbalula has repeatedly made and failed to deliver on many other such “promises” since President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed him to the post of Transport Minister.

“Whether Vusi Mona is trying to steal Minister Mbalula’s limelight in announcing what will become of e-tolling or not is irrelevant,” said Dembovsky. “On the face of things, what is clear is that government has no intention to scrap e-tolling and that it would rather risk triggering a vehicle licensing fees revolt than to admit that it was wrong in contriving this diabolical and convoluted scheme,” he concluded.