Sanral hits back: Vusi Mona debunks Outa numbers

Cape Town - South African Roads Agency (Sanral) general manager: communications Vusi Mona launched a stinging attack on the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) on the second anniversary of the controversial e-toll system.

Outa listed five reasons why Gauteng's e-toll system has, in its opinion, been a failure, and said the scheme was "doomed from the outset".

READ: Two years on: Outa lists 5 reasons why e-tolls flopped

In an emailed statement to Fin24 on Wednesday, Mona said he wished to "debunk some of Outa’s numbers". The anti-tolls body, said Mona, has "no respect for the pronouncements of the judiciary or for our democracy". This is because six courts have upheld e-tolls as legitimate, said Mona, while the Pretoria Magistrate's Court convicted and sentenced a motorist for evading e-tolls.

He was referring to the case of CSIR researcher Dr Stoyen Hristov Stoychev, who was convicted of fraud and evading e-tolls. Stoychev was fined R20 000 or six months in prison and a further suspended 12-month prison sentence, as well as 100 hours of community service.

READ: Stiff sentence for e-tolls fraudster

Outa, said Mona, is "an organisation with undisclosed membership, although they have just over 40 000 Facebook likes which may be a good indication of membership".

On the other hand, there are 1.2 million registered e-toll users of whom about 500 000 belong to fleets and 80 000 to government vehicles. On top of that, said Mona, there is also a large proportion of individuals who have registered since the system was launched on December 3 2013.

"Over and above that, there are road users who are paying their e-toll bills (not e-tag holders) and taking advantage of the 60% discount that kicked in on November 2 2015 – R40m paid in the first four weeks of the discount offer with queries amounting to R400m owed," said Mona.

Outa claimed that only R1.8bn of the roughly R8bn invoiced over the past two years has been collected. Responding to this, Mona said: "The R8bn is not a reflection of the actual toll income required or projected for the past two years. The figure is R8bn as a result of outstanding toll that is reflected at the alternate toll tariff, a tariff that was valid up to July 2015, three times the standard tariff.

"This has been revised as a result of the new dispensation with a single tariff as well as the 60% discount on historic e-toll debt," explained Mona.

Turning to the actual cost of e-tolls, Mona said: "E-tolls cost more than 80% of road users less than a R100 per month based on actual usage figures, with the actual average monthly cost per user less than R50."

He contrasted this with Outa's offer of legal defence, which he said costs "R50 a month – minimum". Outa's "e-toll defensive umbrella campaign" is meant to provide legal support to members summonsed for non-payment of e-toll fees. However, Outa states on its website: "The cost of Outa membership is entirely up to you and what you can afford monthly."

READ: Anti e-toll group vows to support members in court

Outa undermines South Africa's constitutional democracy, said Mona. "Outa breaks down – it does not build. They do not offer a viable alternative to combating congestion, addressing spatial legacies of apartheid, creating jobs, providing on-road services or a funding model that does not punish the poor."

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