The South African Roads Agency (Sanral) has begun serving members of the public with letters of demand for outstanding debt on e-tolls.
However, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says “letters of final demand” should not be confused with a summons, as it is a low commitment step that does not officially initiate legal proceedings.
Last month, Sanral said e-toll defaulters may start receiving civil summonses from sheriffs in different jurisdictions in Gauteng.
Electronic Toll Collection, the company responsible for collecting e-toll payments, has also warned motorists not complying with the system should expect “intensified collection activity”.
Outa points out Sanral’s past behaviour and processes have laid the ground for a very strong defence in the form of a collateral challenge against the roads agency, if and when a summons arises for non-payment of e-tolls.
“For instance, we have examples of motorists who have previously been compliant and eventually gave up due to the scheme’s failure to account for and manage their queries and billing errors raised on their invoices,” says Wayne Duvenage, Outa chairman.
“Others have never received invoices in accordance with the scheme’s rules, while in other cases, incorrect bills were not removed from their accounts due to a cumbersome and ineffective dispute resolution mechanism.”
Outa points out that “for motorists that have entered into an agreement with Sanral to pay e-tolls under duress, and who remain ‘indebted’ to Sanral, the case could very well revolve around the validity of the agreement.
“We are aware of many motorists who signed up for the scheme out of fear of being prosecuted, not knowing that significant and valid questions surround the lawfulness of the scheme’s introduction, or that Sanral had not ensured their equipment was certified in accordance with the Legal Metrology Act, or that the Department of Transport would change their minds and not pursue their incessant threats of criminal charges against e-toll defaulters, seven months after the scheme was launched.”
According to Outa, the public discontent with the e-toll scheme and Sanral’s threatening approach towards their justified defiance becomes more widespread every day.
“It is unfortunate that despite the continued low compliance levels, government persists in trying to force its failed scheme onto an unwilling public, whose resistance has remained strong throughout the debacle. The showdown between the state and the people on the e-toll matter will continue to intensify until Sanral and their bosses eventually realise the public will not bow down to their pressure.”