The E-Tolling juggernaut seems now to have acquired a momentum all of its own. Some of the decisions being made are beyond all rational comprehension.
First, choosing a system that needs probably about 60% of the collected revenue to cover the collection costs, second choosing a system that is administratively cumbersome, requires the use of a grossly polluted ENatis database, and finally is, to put it mildly, not popular with the potential user-base.
Consider enforcement. Each time you pass under a gantry and do not pay you commit a criminal offence, never mind that it is a simple civil debt that you are incurring. Each offence will require a summons and a court appearance. If you travel between Johannesburg and Pretoria regularly, that is a lot of summonses and court appearances. A lot of people do, and even if only 10 000 drivers per day do not pay for going beneath 10 gantries on the 5 days of every working week, that is around 2 Million summonses per month. Our court system is already overstretched, and the addition of a large number of trial dates every month will stretch it to breaking point.
A pragmatic observer may now conclude that the system is unenforceable and look for other ways to collect the revenue without the need of squillions of court cases. However, the force of the momentum behind e-tolling has driven SANRAL to desperate measures.
The first measure is that they have set up a private police force, probably to be popularly dubbed the E-Trolls, presumably comprised of the purse-lipped joyless wanabee cops who failed the car-guard entrance exam. They will set up road blocks and demand payment of outstanding monies before letting the weary traveller continue. There is also a threat that they will not allow defaulters onto the highways in the first place. That surely contravenes the constitutional right to freedom of movement. Quite apart from that, wasn’t one of the major objectives of electronic toll collection to speed up traffic flow, or at least not unduly impede it?
The second measure is to set up “Traffic Courts” where defaulters will receive a summary roadside judgement, and again not be allowed to continue until outstanding fees, fines and other charges are paid. Who will pay for these drumhead tribunals? Yes, the costs will come from the public purse, further diluting the financial justification for e-tolling.
This sheer bull-headed rush to implementation, coupled with SANRAL’s pig-headed refusal to disclose the financial and contractual arrangements of a public service contract makes me think that my first instinct to follow the money was the correct one.
Someone, or probably a number of someones are making a lot of money from E-Tolling and it isn’t the Gauteng, and later South African motorist. It doesn’t take too much thought to guess who the someones are. We just need to prove it.