E-toll gantry image

It’s no secret that the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has battled to collect fees from road users since the e-tolling system was introduced on the Gauteng road network.

Since then there has been an outcry from road users and independent bodies calling for the scheme to be done away with, and now, Sanral has begun looking at alternatives ways to generate funds to cover road construction and maintenance costs across the country as majority of motorists using the network are not paying their e-toll bill.

Currently, motorists owe Sanral more than R6bn, with only 30% to 40% complying with the system. This was according to Alex van Niekerk, manager of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, who spoke at a recent transport seminar held at the University of Johannesburg.

Sanral said has planned to go to court in order to seek default judgments against the thousands of non-compliant motorists.

However, van Niekerk said that even if the outstanding fees were paid, this would not be adequate to fund future construction projects, but could possibly clear the country’s road infrastructure backlog.

The Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and Sanral recently planned to get clarity from the high court on the legality of the tolling system, however this has been delayed.

According to the Business Day, the case was expected to be in court by the end of this year, with a judgment expected to help settle the question of the permanence of tolling on Gauteng freeways, as well as process that Sanral would follow to collect outstanding payments.

Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said Outa delayed the process as he thinks the organisation suspected that the court would rule in Sanral’s favour.

“The negotiations have come to an end and Outa’s clients will need to proceed to file their pleas and the matters will proceed as trial actions,” Mona said. “Sanral could not continue negotiating a possible test case in the absence of defined rules and clear timelines,” he added.

Outa said that when they finally approach the court, they will argue that the establishment of e-tolling was flawed, and therefore motorists should not be forced to pay its fees as there was no contractual relationship between Sanral and motorists.