Huge confusion about e-toll continues

Henry

Pressure group Outa has reiterated that it will continue to defend motorists who receive a summons from Sanral for outstanding e-toll debts.

This follows comments by Mampho Modise, deputy director-general of public finance at the national treasury, in an interview with the website Moneyweb. Modise told Moneyweb that “Gauteng has agreed that that debt must and will be collected”.

However, Outa questioned Modise’s comment and labeled it as confusing as e-toll debt is collected by Sanral and not by the Gauteng provincial government.

“What makes the threat against those with outstanding e-toll debts even more confusing is that Sanral stopped issuing summonses against e-toll defaulters in 2019, and most of these debts have now been written off,” says Wayne Duvenage, CEO of Outa.

In October 2022, the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, announced the end of e-toll. In January last year, the Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, announced that R6.9 billion would be refunded to those who paid e-toll, a statement he has since retracted.

During last week’s provincial speech, Lesufi announced that e-tolls will be a thing of the past by March 31. He also said the Gauteng provincial government had agreed to pay R12 billion towards Sanral’s e-toll debt to finalize the matter.

“We are more confused than ever by the latest announcement by Modise. Who should we believe, especially since it’s an election year with different politicians making so many different promises?” said Duvenage.

He accused the government of being indecisive and unable to implement its own policies.

“Between Sanral, Prime Minister Lesufi, min. Godongwana and the Department of Transport, nobody seems to know what is really going on when it comes to finalizing the e-toll debacle.”

Outa says those in government bent on dragging out the e-toll matter seem to have forgotten the test court case between Sanral and Outa supporters for summonses issued for outstanding e-toll debts. It’s still not finished.

Since February 2019, Outa lawyers have defended 2 028 cases on behalf of e-toll defaulters who received summonses from Sanral, with a total value of around R26 million.

Of these, 1 929 cases with a total value of R112.2 million were brought in magistrates’ courts, with 99 cases in the High Court with a value of around R150.3 million.

One aspect of this case is to challenge the constitutionality (ie the legality and enforceability) of the e-toll scheme. In March 2019, Sanral’s board decided to stop e-toll summonses and in the meantime all these cases were temporarily suspended leaving the legal issue unresolved.

Duvenage reconfirmed that Outa will defend every motorist who receives a summons from Sanral for outstanding e-toll debt, provided they give Outa the mandate to do so and Outa has the money for it.

“We will not simply accept the government’s irrational plan to collect debt on its inefficient, expensive and largely unworkable system, especially since the government itself has announced that e-toll will be suspended,” says Duvenage.