On Monday 12 May 2014, the Acting Director-General of the Department of Transport, Mr Mawethu Vilana published an announcement by the Department of Transport in the Government Gazette stating that an effective discount term extension on e-tolls bills was to be offered to GFIP e-toll road users.
The first sentence of the English version was cumbersome and comprised some 134 words which additionally seemed to contradict itself in that it said that the discounts would be applied on invoices issued from 3 December 2013 to 28 February 2014, but ended off saying “effectively extending the discount grace period to 30 June 2014”.
Subsequent media reports, including one issued by the South African Government News Agency wherein Nazir Alli has been quoted, as well as utterings by Vusi Mona have held that the effective two-thirds discount that will be extended to users who register by 30 June 2014 is applicable only to invoices issued from 3 December 2013 to 28 February 2014. This excludes invoices issued in March and April 2014, which by the time 30 June comes around will be subject to the alternate user tariff, which is three times higher than the standard tariff. Some invoices issued in May will be subject to a 30% discount by the time 30 June comes around, whilst those issued at the beginning of May will be subject to the alternate user tariff.
On 15 May 2014, SANRAL’s Vusi Mona was interviewed by Stephen Grootes on the 702 midday report wherein he made a number of startling revelations. Amongst other things, he said that 700,000 people are paying e-tolls. He went further to qualify this by saying that over a million people are registered and in amongst those were people who are exempt from paying.
Mona and SANRAL have repeatedly held that over 1.2 million users are registered for e-tolls. They have also stated that between 30,000 and 45,000 new registrations are taking place each week; however the 1.2 million figure has not grown since they started uttering this in February 2014.
Additionally, if the registered users totals 1.2 million, then it is fair to say that 500,000 of those users are in fact exempt from paying e-tolls, based on the information that Vusi Mona revealed yesterday.
This is the first time that we have heard any mention whatsoever of the quantum of exempt users under e-tolling and it is somewhat disingenuous of SANRAL to claim that there are 1.2 million registered users when in fact, by Vusi Mona’s assertion, there are actually only 700,000 who are in fact paying.
This revelation furthermore demonstrates that instead of 48% of the 2.5 million vehicles that allegedly use the GFIP paying e-tolls as previously repeatedly claimed by SANRAL, only 28% in fact are paying. The situation of the “user pays principle” was bad enough when we were misled to believe that 48% were paying. Now that it has been revealed that only 28% are in fact paying, this must be viewed as a clear indictment that the so-called “user pays principle” is simply not working but is instead failing on a grand scale. In reality, Mona’s statements have highlighted that e-tolling is simply a “some users pay principle” and nothing more.
Another poignant statement was uttered by Vusi Mona wherein he said “…despite their attitudes and their disrespect for the rule of law” (referring to OUTA) but he then went further went to say “…and of course as SANRAL, our toll portfolio is a business and we cannot sit back if we are not collecting…”
The concept of legislating companies into business and providing them with a “legally” captive customer base in doing so, although popular in the Department of Transport, is vulgar to say the least and smacks of corruption. Anyone who cannot see this is either blind or involved in it and offering bribes to motorists to come forward and register is just another manifestation of this.
There have been repeated calls for a referendum on e-tolls versus a dedicated, Gauteng-specific fuel levy and, despite repeated claims of e-tolls having been democratically implemented; government has simply ignored these calls.
Vusi Mona’s interview with Stephen Grootes is available here.
National Chairman – Justice Project South Africa (NPC)