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SAFTU will fight threat to blackmail e-toll resisters

The South African Federation of Trade Unions is alarmed at reports that when the Administration Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill, currently being debated in the National Council of Provinces, comes into effect, drivers who default on their e-toll payments could lose demerit points and ultimately their licences.

SAFTU remains resolutely opposed to e-tolls which are an attempt to turn our roads, which should be a public service, into an expensive commodity which imposes immense hardships on drivers, especially those who have no alternative but to use their car to get to and from work or take children to school.

The mass campaign against e-tolls proves that millions of motorists share SAFTU’s view. It has led to only 29% of the estimated 1.2 million Gauteng motorists paying their bills, causing a R3.6 billion deficit in outstanding payments.

The ANC government should therefore have long ago scrapped the whole rotten and failed policy. The new Transport Minister, Communist Party leader, Blade Nzimande, should by have knocked the final nail into the coffin of the e-tolls.

Last month he told Eyewitness News that he no longer wanted the controversial e-toll saga to be dragged out and that his department would look at alternative options.

Yet if reports are true, this new legislation will try to revive e-tolls by blackmailing drivers into paying their bills for fear of losing their drivers’ licenses, through accumulating ‘demerit points’.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has warned that, based on what the Road Traffic Infringement Agency COO, Thato Tsholetsane, said at public hearings on the bill, ignoring signs at e-toll gantries could be an infringement akin to disobeying road traffic signs.

Section 58 (1) of the Aarto regulations stipulates that disobeying a road sign would result in a R500 fine and a demerit point against the driver. Twelve demerit points could lead to a year’s suspension of your driving licence.
“Imagine driving from Pretoria to Johannesburg,” said OUTA’s Rudie Heyneke, “and you pass five gantries on a return trip, which is already 10 demerit points. If you drive that road twice in one week, your licence could be suspended.”

Spokesperson of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), Vusi Mona, has accused Outa of fuelling civil disobedience among motorists and that “Road users follow Outa’s advice at their peril”. This is a clear threat that Sanral intends to blackmail drivers into paying.

OUTA’s Wayne Duvenage is sure that if his this new bill is passed “it will fail just as e-tolls have failed”, and that they expect their test case to gauge the lawfulness of e-tolls to be heard in 2018 to prove the illegality of the system.

SAFTU warns however that motorists should not rely solely on the courts to scrap e-tolls. The only way to make sure that this new attempt to reimpose e-tolls is defeated is to revive and strengthen the mass campaign of civil disobedience.

The federation demands to know where Blade Nzimande and Gauteng Premier David Makhura stand on this bill.

Makhura has already conceded in his State of the Province Address that “It is loud and clear for all to see that e-tolls have not worked in the province”, and that he would be meeting President Cyril Ramaphosa “in order to find a new and more equitable funding model to support the continued expansion of Gauteng’s road network and public transport system”.

It is time to turn these words into action and show his constituents that he is serious about this and that he will insist that the President and his ‘Communist’ Transport Minister amend this bill and scrap e-tolls once and for all.