Guest Column

E-tolls: If the government won’t pay, why should anyone else?

2015-07-16 16:20

Alison Visser


It’s quite funny really. The government expects motorists to pay to use Gauteng’s biggest, busiest roads – yet the municipalities in the province haven’t paid e-tolls bills to the tune of R2.3 million.

Before we start celebrating the demise of the e-tag and moaning about the breakdown in the rule of law, it would be prudent to point out that the municipalities with e-tags that owe money – Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Sedibeng, Lesedi and Midvaal – may well be in the process of paying. Anyone who has ever done business with any government department would be able to attest to the speed in which their invoices are settled.

However, the Emfuleni local municipality – which owes about R130 000 – hasn’t even registered its cars for e-tags. This municipality, which includes the town of Vanderbijlpark, falls under the reign of political activist Nomadlozi Hlongwane, who has served as regional treasurer of the ANC in Sedibeng, and who is currently the chairperson of the region’s moral regeneration committee in Sedibeng.

As if it is laughing at the situation and rubbing in the South African National Roads Agency’s (Sanral) R130 000 wound, Emfuleni’s slogan is “the cradle of human rights”. After all, one of the basic human rights as enshrined in the Constitution is the right to freedom of movement – something that e-tolls don’t allow.

Despite an outcry from the public, trade unions and the Gauteng government over the “user pays” system, the national government dug in its heels and refused to back down, even announcing in May that vehicle licence disks would not be renewed if e-toll bills had not been settled.

This would mean that all these municipal vehicles would be on the roads illegally.

Despite people’s – albeit justified – feelings about paying to use major roads, they must abide by the country’s laws, otherwise chaos would ensue.

The municipalities’ attitude to e-tolls is hypocritical. It’s illegal. And sends a very dangerous message to society. It tells the country’s citizens that the government shouldn’t be respected, that laws are there to be broken, and that bills shouldn’t be paid.

After all, if the government doesn’t follow its own rules, why should the rest of us?

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