Know your rights
Motorists, unions, various political parties and people in leadership positions are still voicing their defiance against the Gauteng e-tolls even though, despite numerous delays and setbacks, the system went live on December 3. The question on many road users’ minds, however, is: “What now?”
The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) states that, at this time, it is critical that road users know their rights when it comes to e-tolls. “As a road user you are in no way legally obliged to purchase an e-tag,” the association reassures. If you choose not to purchase an e-tag you will be billed directly by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).
The AA adds that you will have a seven day grace period within which to pay your toll fees. “You can pay using cash, a debit or credit card, or any other acceptable payment method such as an electronic funds transfer,” the association explains. “If you choose not to pay your e-toll invoice, you open yourself up to prosecution.”
However, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) adds that citizens have the right to resist the enforcement of unlawful action against them by government. “In this regard, the courts have not finally ruled on whether e-tolling is lawful or unlawful and the judgement by the Supreme Court of Appeal has made it clear that it is still open to individuals to challenge the enforcement of e-tolling on the basis that it is unlawful.”
Outa points out that road users, who do not have e-tags, can choose to either pay toll fees at a higher tariff (after putting Sanral through its paces of invoicing and sending notices for payment – making it difficult for Sanral to enforce e-tolling), or can refuse to pay toll fees at all. “In this case, further notices and demands for payment will be made by Sanral over time until finally it may sue for payment in court, prosecuting road users for non-payment. This may result in road-users having to defend their action in court.”
But if you do choose to purchase an e-tag to limit your costs, the AA recommends that you do not give authorisation for an automatic debit order for payment of toll fees, so that you retain control until there is clarity on the accuracy of billing, the efficiency of the system, how incorrect billing will be handled and future increases.
“It is now at the discretion of every road user to decide whether or not to register with Sanral and pay for e-tolls,” the AA points out. “If you don’t buy an e-tag, you are not breaking the law and cannot be arrested for not owning an e-tag.”