E-tolls: We want whatever Sanral is smoking – justice project

2014-09-01 12:54

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E-tolls in Gauteng will cripple South Africa’s economy, the Justice Project South Africa has said.

“This will cripple the economy of Gauteng and indeed South Africa as a whole,” the justice project’s chairperson, Howard Dembovsky, today told public hearings in Midrand on the effect of e-tolls.

“It will create the socioeconomic disaster of the millennium and we will see people hanging themselves from these beautiful gantries.”

He said people who were prosecuted for not paying tolls would have a criminal record, which would affect their livelihoods.

This could mean people losing their jobs, going to jail or getting into debt to pay the fines.

Dembovsky presented the panel with three case studies to show the effect the tolls would have on people who had not paid tolls or bought e-tags.

“[If people go to jail] we will then have successfully completed the cycle and turned artificial criminals into real criminals,” Dembovsky said.

Not only would nonpayers have to pay the outstanding fees, but also civil penalties of R1 000 for each gantry passed.

He said the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) was “partially correct” about people not paying for e-tolls.

Sanral has said not paying e-tolls was both a traffic and criminal offence and people would be prosecuted.

Dembovsky told the panel a Sanral official had said South Africa would become a “banana republic” if tolls were not paid.

“We said to them whatever you’re smoking we want some, because these are a lot of offences.”

He said as from May 31, R1.1 billion in e-toll fees had not been paid and of the 2.5 million people who used the highways under the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, only half had been registered.

Sanral waited too long to start the prosecutions, he said.

E-tolls should be scrapped and a fuel levy should be introduced.

“If e-tolls is retained, at least hundreds of thousands of e-toll offenders will be prosecuted,” he said.

Neither Sanral nor the National Prosecuting Authority could decide whether to prosecute an offender, he said.

“They don’t have the discretion to select a few cases in order to set examples.

“We also don’t live in Egypt. The courts may not hold mass trials. It is highly likely that court cases might take days to complete.”

Dembovsky said if a fuel levy of 14 cents a litre was introduced Sanral would be able to repay its debt sooner.

Sanral in general was good at building and maintaining good roads and should manage national, provincial and local roads, Dembovsky said.

He said e-tolls should be scrapped and replaced with a “true user-pays principle”.

“If we don’t do it we are heading for an epic socioeconomic disaster.”

The hearings are expected to address the economic and social impacts of the freeway improvement project and e-tolls. The panel is expected to present a report of its findings to premier David Makhura at the end of November.

Civil society was making presentations at the hearings from today until Wednesday.

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