You are still legally required to pay e-tolls — here's what will happen if you don't
- The treasury and department of transport said motorists are still required to pay their e-tolls.
- This despite the scheme officially being reconsidered by the national government.
- However, a taxpayer association and legal expert believe that motorists will likely not be prosecuted.
- For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.
The national treasury, department of transport and Gauteng provincial government agree that motorists are still legally obliged to pay their e-tolls, despite the scheme officially being reconsidered.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) and a legal expert, however, believe the likelihood that motorists will be prosecuted for failure to pay is extremely slim.
The Gauteng provincial government told Business Insider South Africa that the non-payment of e-tolls is a criminal offence as defined in the Sanral Act.
“What we have done is bring forth an argument for the system to be revised,” premier David Makhura’s spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said.
“Until a further announcement is made in this regard, as administers of the law, we still encourage motorists to pay their tolls.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa in June mandated Makhura, finance minister Tito Mboweni and transport minister Fikile Mbalula to provide him with solutions for the unpopular toll system by the end of August.
Mbalula’s spokesperson Ayanda-Allie Paine and the national treasury said they cannot comment on the e-toll scheme until they present their solutions to Ramaphosa. They encouraged motorists to pay their e-tolls until then.
The South African National Road Agency (SANRAL), the agency which administers e-tolls, said it can use the legal tools allowed under legislation to prosecute individuals who fail to pay their e-tolls.
The same month Sanral said it will temporarily suspend issuing new summonses to individuals who do not pay e-tolls.
“[We suspended it] in view of the president’s process that is aimed at finding a permanent solution to the e-toll challenge,” Vusi Mona, Sanral communications manager, told Business Insider South Africa.
“The Board will regularly monitor its decision on new summonses, but urges continued and timely payment of e-tolls and e-toll debt by road users.
OUTA said they estimate that e-toll compliance has hit an all-time low with only one in five motorists paying their e-tolls.
Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said they believe fleet vehicle companies, companies doing business with the state, and the state itself are the only entities paying their e-tolls.
“There is a strong likelihood that the scheme will end,” Duvenage said. “The likelihood of being refunded if the scheme is scrapped is also highly unlikely.”
Also read: It will now cost R242 to go from Joburg to Durban – here are the 2019 toll increases for major routes
Duvenage said the organisation will defend anyone who is prosecuted for failure to pay as long as they are financially able to, and is still waiting for a court date to set aside 2,100 summonses Sanral sent Outa members in 2016.
University of Witwatersrand law clinic’s Dwight Snyman said while consumers are legally required to pay their e-tolls, the state simply does not have the machinery to prosecute non-compliance.
“We are living in a country where the state is unable to issue summonses for the three-quarters of South Africans who do not pay their traffic fines - so how will they do it for e-tolls,” Snyman told Business Insider South Africa.
“And if they somehow get the administrative capacity, how will they get the poor to pay which is already under immense financial pressure?”
The South African government introduced e-tolls in 2013 to pay for the upgrade of 187 km freeways in the Gauteng province.
The system makes use of electronic scanners to register vehicles’ number plates and send them a bill for the distance travelled on the upgraded roads.
Users can also opt to have an electronic tag (e-tag) where they’d qualify for discounts, and the amount would automatically be credited from their bank accounts.
The project was, however, met with widespread criticism and non-compliance.
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