The South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) must stop deceiving itself that the population will accept e-tolling and should heed the “warning signs of a discontented society”, according to the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA).
OUTA said the successful peaceful protest by thousands of road users which took place this weekend shows the extent of opposition to e-tolling, and demonstrates South Africans are not willing to participate in the “ill conceived scheme”.
SANRAL must face up to this fact, rather than claiming increasing cooperation by the population, OUTA said, adding failure to accept facts could lead to “unintended consequences”.
“We are furthermore perturbed by statements by the Sanral CEO, Mr Nazir Alli, claiming nearly a million people have already registered for e-tags which shows the system is legitimate, and that people must respect the Law and accept e-tolls,” said John Clarke, spokesperson for OUTA.
“These comments indicate that the authorities are not seeing the warning signs of a discontented society. Such self-deception risks inviting unintended consequences.”
According to OUTA, SANRAL is wrong to claim the legitimacy of e-tolling has been conclusively settled by the courts, saying the failure of SANRAL to engage with the public remains to be ruled upon under the Criminal Procedures Act, a ruling which will occur on the first prosecution of an e-toll debtor.
The public must be heard and kept in consideration when deciding upon new legal requirements, not ignored and manipulated, said OUTA.
“Respect for the law is not something one can command from the people. We do not live in the dark ages where citizens are treated like passive subjects. This is tantamount to a primitive rule by law, rather than a progressive constitutional rule of law,” said Clarke.
“SANRAL can try carrots and sticks to force compliance, but e-tolling cannot be sustained by manipulation of emotions. Only willing consent and acceptance by the people will make the system viable.”
HumanIPO has reported extensively on the numerous controversies surrounding the implementation of e-tolling.
In December a conflict broke out with OUTA accusing SANRAL of fabricating figures regarding e-tag sales in order to create a semblance of more than double the real uptake; with SANRAL vehemently denying the claim.
It also emerged the SANRAL e-tolling website allowed any member of the public to access information on outstanding e-toll bills for any car based on its registration number, prompting the feature to eventually be removed from the website also SANRAL insisted the feature was not contrary to privacy or protection of data legislation.
Last week HumanIPO reported on two separate security threats involving the discovery of envelopes containing white powder at SANRAL’s head office, prompting evacuation of staff, as well as a bomb threat at the same location on Sunday.
Opposition party the Freedom Front Plus today said the hoaxes should serve as a warning to government about the extent of resistance to e-tolling felt across the population.
OUTA said the myriad of problems and complaints from the public have led to a total lack of faith in SANRAL.
“The number of complaints we are receiving continues to mount and these are clear signs of gross maladministration which has lost whatever residue of the trust Sanral may have had.”
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.