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Wednesday / 19 June 2024
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These companies will defend you for free when e-toll debt collectors come knocking

AfriForum and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) have come forward to offer their legal services to South Africans who are hassled by the National Roads Agency (Sanral) to pay their outstanding e-toll debts.

In a media briefing surrounding the shutdown of e-tolls on 10 April 2024, minister of transport Sindisiwe Chikunga said that the entities responsible for the controversial tolling system will pursue motorists who did not pay their accounts.

“In terms of the law, the motorists are still obligated to pay [their e-toll debts],” said Chikunga.

“On how we will enforce or not enforce, that is a matter we have not discussed, we will be tending to that as time goes on.”

E-tolls racked up approximately R43 billion in debt during the 10 years and four months it presided over Gauteng roads, with Sanral and the Department of Transport now looking towards non-compliant road users as one way of recouping their losses.

In response to Chikunga’s statements, AfriForum said it will “provide full legal assistance to the first motorist who approaches the organisation if sued for historical arrears arising from non-payment of e-tolls.”

Similarly, Outa said it 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 that Outa has the funds to do so.”

E-toll debt collection a fallacy

Outa contends that the collection of e-toll debts is a fallacy as there is no way Sanral will be able to force the public to repay their outstanding accounts.

Following mass pushback against the scheme after it was first launched in 2013, Sanral posed e-toll bills to early defaulters in the hopes they would heed their “civil duty” and pay what they supposedly owed.

When this didn’t work, it threatened the public with the possibility of their licences being withheld and their credit ratings downgraded should they not comply with e-tolls, but these warnings landed on deaf ears.

After years of non-compliance, the only avenue left was for Sanral to issue court summonses to e-toll defaulters, and those who received them quickly sought legal support from organisations like Outa.

Then, in March 2019, the Sanral board decided that it would not pursue non-paying citizens through court summonses anymore, effectively declaring the system dead in the water.

This date is important as the law dictates that e-toll debt is prescribed after three years, hence, Outa claims that motorists no longer owe Sanral a cent.

“Quite frankly, in our opinion, there is no outstanding e-toll debt from motorists. This is also reflected as such in Sanral’s financial statements, whereby all past e-toll debts they couldn’t pursue were written off years ago,” said Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage.

“With no further options for pursuing this debt, the bulk of which has already prescribed, this notion of trying to squeeze unpaid e-toll bills from the wallets of millions of motorists is a fallacy and illusion that Sanral is simply unable to accept.”

According to AfriForum campaign officer Charne Mostert, e-tolls were borne from a corrupt government seeking ways to separate thousands of citizens from their hard-earned money.

“The failure of the e-tolls system will stand as proof of mass public non-compliance in a system that does not serve the people,” said Mostert.

“Every time a motorist drives under these white elephants, they will be reminded of a system with no benefits that was forced upon the public and finally defeated by that same public that decided to put its foot down.”

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