The Sanral Act of 1998 was a way for the government to collect money towards the improvement of South Africa's roads and, as of 2014, 19% of South Africa’s national roads were toll roads.
The two main electric toll collection methods are “Boom-down” electronic toll collection and open road tolling (ORT). The systems were designed to fund the R20 billion highway upgrade program (GFIP or Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project) which was implemented in 2007 and largely completed by April 2011. Open road tolling was only implemented in December 2013 and has been largely unsuccessful as motorists refused to pay.
However, motorists have been sent into a state of panic as an announcement confirmed that if the Administration Adjunction of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act is applied, motorists can be punished and have their licenses suspended if they don't pay their E-toll fees.
It was announced yesterday, 3 April 2018, that President Cyril Ramaphosa has agreed to take action to resolve the largely ignored e-toll problem. It was agreed upon at the National Assembly Meeting on Tuesday that ignoring signs at e-toll gantries urging motorists to settle their debts could be an infringement akin to disobeying road traffic signs under Aarto regulations gazetted in 2008. This means that motorists could receive a demerit point as well as a R500 fine and racking up 12 demerit points results in licence suspension.
Rudie Heyneke, portfolio manager for transport of the civil lobby group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said: “Imagine driving from Pretoria to Joburg and you pass five gantries on a return trip, which is already 10 demerit points. So, if you drive that road twice in one week, your licence could be suspended (for a year)."
Three more provinces are still scheduled to consult before the bill is accepted and adopted. Last year, the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s 2017 financial statements reflected a R3.6 billion impairment in e-toll fees, caused by a meagre 29% in compliance out of the estimated 1.2 million motorists in Gauteng. Sanral spokesperson, Vusi Mona, blamed Outa for fuelling civil disobedience among motorists saying that: “Road users follow Outa’s advice at their peril. The infrastructure provided and maintained by Sanral services the people of South Africa.”
The public is pushing back against the e-toll fees as they have not seen any benefits but the fate of the new bill being passed could result in motorists driving without licenses once they are suspended.