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E-toll threats… should we be concerned?

07.03.2016

The other day, while skipping through some radio stations, I stumbled upon Talk Radio 702 where Xolani Gwala was discussing e-tolls.

A few things caught my attention, for example, Mark Ridgeway, the chief operations officer of Electronic Tolling Company (ETC) said that motorists could face harsh action or summonses, if they refuse to pay their e-toll bills. This made me extremely angry because the government and those affiliated with the e-tolls have tried just about every trick in the book to force people to pay their bills.

Now though, after failing to lure us in with discounts and patriotic adverts they’ve resorted to threats. Should we be anxious and worried? I don’t think we have enough paper at Autodealer to get into the entire issue that is e-tolls, so I’ll focus on the issue around legal action against you - the motorist.

For starters, the idea of a summons already faces a red closed door with the words “Post Office” written on it. Most e-toll bills, traffic fines and summonses are sent to the public via post and the South African post offices have been struggling to do anything for the past year. This has resulted in many road users receiving e-toll bills many months later, which no longer offer discounts, as the time has expired. The ETC said their mandate ends with delivery at the post office and that they cannot take responsibility for the post office’s lack of efficiency. They maintain that their job is to collect the debt and that’s what they’re doing.

So, in other words, is the fact that you don’t get your bill, due to a defunct government institution, your problem? I find this ridiculous as it is the motorist who, once again, has to take the brunt of the government’s failures.

To add insult to injury, the ETC wants to implement a vehicle listing platform, which would inform Auto Dealer of all vehicles which have outstanding e-toll bills. This could potentially mean that a vehicle will not be bought or sold without a fully paid-up bill by the owner. Firstly, there’s no legal requirement for the existence of such a vehicle-listing platform or process that would deny the sale of any vehicle, unless of course this was a list of stolen vehicles, managed firstly by the police, then listed on credible vehicle trading sites. The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) has received complaints from many pre-owned Auto Dealer, regarding the erroneous and illegal billing by ETC for e-toll bills which have been linked to sold vehicles, whose new owners are using the 21-day grace period to licence the vehicle in their name. The bill, of course, simply defaults to the last owner - just another one of many flaws in the system.

The buying and selling process of a vehicle currently takes a few hours, maybe a few days. If we have to wait for e-toll bills to be paid, that same, seamless process could end up taking a few months.

Thankfully, Wayne Duvenage, chairman of Outa is fighting for us, the public. He said, “Even though Mr Ridgeway may claim that e-toll defiance is an action in contravention of the law. We say, not at all, on the basis that that law is not worth the paper it’s written on; it is grossly unjustified, irrational and introduced in contravention of our constitutional rights.

“In such an instance, the public not only has a right, but a moral obligation to defy that law, and they will remain innocent until proven guilty,” explained Duvenage.

It is important to know that it matters first for those in power, to behave themselves within the law and the values of our hard-won constitution, before they expect their citizens to follow their instructions.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you pay e-tolls? Have you received text messages demanding payments? Write to us and let us know.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
07.03.2016
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