It’s called ‘omission of a few select facts’ and it works a charm. It gives people enough information to get them on your side, but not enough for them to start asking pesky questions.
This concept is also known by another name - propaganda. The dictionary defines it as a form of communication that is aimed towards influencing the attitude of the community towards some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument.
Last week the South African Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) dropped some prime propaganda on unsuspecting South Africans. It came in the form of a print advert with the words “Why not a fuel levy?” printed in big fat letters at the top. This advert is meant to explain why it’s a bad idea to use the fuel levy to pay for road development in South Africa and why it’s a good idea to use e-tolling instead.
The facts Sanral supplies do give a clear and concise argument as to why the fuel levy is a bad idea. At the top of the advert, there’s a picture of an old Mercedes-Benz belonging to Oom Thys. It’s a 1969 model that cost Oom Thys R5 450 and it has a claimed fuel consumption of 10.5 litres/100km. At the bottom there’s a picture of an Audi Q7 belonging to Mr Jones, a wealthy entrepreneur. It cost him R728 000 and consumes 7.4 litres/100km.
The important question Sanral asks is why Oom Thys must pay 40% more than Mr Jones to use the road. It’s a valid argument, but one that omits a few facts motorists need to be aware of before they decide to get themselves tagged.
Yes, Oom Thys will pay more if the fuel-levy method is implemented. But wait a minute. Isn’t a fuel levy already in play at the moment? Even if e-tolling is implemented, Oom Thys would still be paying 88c per litre in fuel levy. How does that work?
It gets even more interesting when you listen to the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa). According to Outa, this whole debacle could have been paid for if an extra 9c per litre were added to the fuel levy. I can’t speak for Oom Thys, but I know I’d rather pay 40% extra on 9c per litre than pay the average of what e-tolling is going to cost us. Not to mention the fact that Oom Thys - who is retired, remember - will have to pay extra for all his day-to-day pensioner necessities because the transport sector will have to find a way to pay the extra tolling fare somehow. The easiest way to do this is to put the price of transport up, which will inevitably push up the price of consumer goods.
It sucks to be Oom Thys, any way you look at it. Suddenly, he can’t afford to use his Merc to visit his grandkids in Centurion and even if he could, he couldn’t afford to buy them sweets like any good grandparent should.
I guess Sanral is under the assumption that old people just stay at home and never use the highway. Let me tell you something guys: My ouma is almost 70 and even two bouts of cancer couldn’t take her down. She’s still as active as ever and, for the record, also thinks e-toll is a bad idea.
But enough of Oom Thys. Mr Jones has also been wronged. The tone of the advert makes him seem like a capitalist pig. I mean, the guy paid R728 000 for a luxury SUV.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I think there’s a very good reason they didn’t use the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class, as that would have offended a few ministers out there…
Then there’s the matter of how much money the government has already made out of Mr Jones before his Q7 turned a wheel. Even before the first litre of fuel entered the tank or before the first gantry snapped his picture, he’s paid import tax, ad velorum tax and emissions tax. Who could blame Mr Jones for wanting a luxury car? At least he’s sitting comfy while his wallet’s being pillaged.
Besides, Sanral should be thankful for entrepreneurs like Mr Jones. He’s just one of many people out there providing jobs to people who can then buy cars and also get robbed blind by e-tolling.
My biggest concern, however, is the claimed fuel consumption of the Audi Q7. As a motoring hack, I can tell you that there’s no possible way a Q7 will ever get near that consumption figure. If anything, it will consume on average even more than Oom Thys’ old banger. The entire argument is based on a fuel-consumption figure no luxury SUV will achieve anytime soon.
This advert is completely flawed and smirks of desperation. To date, 600 000 tags have been sold and Outa claims that around 80% of that was given to fleet companies, government fleets, banks and leasing companies.
I really do hope Outa can conquer those evil gantries, but to do so, it needs help from our side. The Outa court interdict has already saved each of us Gauteng inhabitants a few hundred shells, so the least we can do is contribute a bit to their cause. Check out their website at www.outa.co.za
And before my opinion gets too propaganda-like itself, I’d like to invite comments from your side. Let us know how you feel about e-toll in general by dropping us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org