The die has been cast, bullets have been bitten, nettles grasped and e-tolling will begin on 3rd December. Like it or not.
Social media is ablaze with individuals proclaiming their disgust and expressing a willingness to spend a night in jail with Big Bubba rather than pay. I don’t think they need to worry.
If we put the emotive arguments to one side, it is clear that E-Tolling will fail as a consequence of administrative inadequacies. The possibility of your having to meet Big Bubba is quite remote.
Apparently SANRAL have between one and three-quarter and two million unsold e-tags, suggesting that around 66% of the three million Gauteng vehicles are not e-tagged. How that reconciles with the SANRAL claims of 600 000 e-tags sold is not clear. The true numbers are a riddle hidden inside an enigma.
For purposes of argument let’s say 1.5Million vehicles will remain untagged and their owners unregistered with SANRAL. To confirm this estimate, next time you are out and about in Gauteng count the number of e-tags you see on your fingers. You won’t need two hands.
Licence Plate recognition and E-Natis is how SANRAL will find untagged vehicle owners in order to be able to send an invoice. It is generally accepted that the E-Natis database is badly polluted. Registration offices have not been processing change of address and ownership details, so there is a fair chance that the vehicle ownership details, including the registered address and the registered owner are wrong. There is also the distinct possibility of cloned and missing licence plates and licence plates altered to confuse the recognition system. I have heard a suggestion that the system is also able to read tax disks, but I’m not so sure about that, and anyway it doesn’t solve the E-Natis issue.
If 10% of unregistered users choose not to buy an e-tag and not to register, that runs into the hundreds of thousands of monthly invoices. If 10% of unregistered users choose not to pay, that runs into tens of thousands, leading to hundreds of thousands of letters of demand, summonses and court appearance requests. I suspect 10% is on the low side.
Following on from that is the ability of the Post Office, Sherriff Officers and the Court System to cope with processing those hundreds of thousands of invoices, letters of demand, summonses and court appearance requests. Not too well I think.
What will SANRAL do? They could ignore non-payers. SANRAL have proved themselves sufficiently mule-headed and stubborn to pursue debtors beyond the grave so they aren’t going to do that.
They could sell off their debtors book to a third party, just like the SABC. The large numbers might make it an economic proposition. The need for cash-flow to pay Kapsch might force them to do this.
They could chase up the debtors themselves. I think that is what they will do.
I expect that around April, when the true extent of non-payment becomes apparent, we will see regular large-scale roadblocks manned by the SANRAL E-Trolls stopping drivers to demand payment of outstanding toll fees. That is when the solids will really hit the aircon.
Or we could all be good little sheeple and meekly pay up. That would be a pity.