Tough times ahead as e-toll gets closer

JOHANNESBURG – Analysts have expressed caution at the consequences of the imminent implementation of e-tolling would have on South Africans.

The system is predicted to have a greater than expected effect on deeply indebted consumers and would force many middle class South Africans back into poverty, say analysts.

A statement released by South Africa’s largest debt counseling firm, Debt Rescue, said, “Low income groups are bearing the brunt of the slowdown in the economy and with more than 25% of all workers unemployed, the extra R450 a month for commuters who use the Ben Schoeman highway daily is going to make a huge difference to their disposable income.”

CEO of Debt Rescue Neil Roets, said the biggest impact of the new tolls would be on heavy vehicles that would be tolled at a much higher rate which would increase transport costs of goods moving through Gauteng.

Cars (class A2) get a slightly better deal than before, with 15 percent discount for further use once the monthly bill reaches R400, and a cap of R450.

This is lower than the previous cap of R550 a month.

The caps for heavy vehicles remain the same, with a R1750 a month maximum for Class B vehicles and a R3500 maximum for Class C.

“With some 20 million credit-active consumers collectively owing R1.45-trillion, the additional burden of e-tolls is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Roets said.

“The writing is on the wall for many middle class families who have only recently escaped from dire poverty. With the additional costs imposed on them directly through tolling and indirectly through the increased costs of goods travelling on the tolled roads, many will be pushed back into poverty,” Roets said.

He said the fact that unemployment was currently estimated to top 25% with a much higher percentage of young people between the ages of 18 and 35 looking for jobs, the impact of e-tolling would be immediate and substantial.

Roets said there was a double digit growth in consumers seeking protection from creditors by going under debt review.

“If the presidency and members of his cabinet could hear the tales of woe and hardship that our counsellors are exposed to daily, they might rethink plans to go ahead with the e-tolling plan,” Roets said.

“I don’t think that our political leaders have any idea of exactly how tough conditions are for ordinary working people. If they did, they would have found other ways of financing Sanral. What happened to the fuel levy that all motorists have been paying for many years that was introduced specifically to build and maintain roads?”

“Those who decide against getting tagged when e-tolls come into effect in Gauteng could find themselves at the mercy of the courts, as they may face fines amounting to thousands of rand a month,” Roets said.

Howard Dembovsky, chairman of the non-profit Justice Project SA (JPSA) was quoted by Moneyweb as saying that the South African National Roads Agency’s (Sanral’s) intended use of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) means people who are not tagged and never received summons could also find themselves with criminal records and fines of thousands of rand.

There is still a glimmer of hope that the courts may side with the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) who has an appeal pending against the implementation of e-tolling.

Outa’s Wayne Duvenage said he was “surprised” by the fact that President Zuma had gone ahead and signed the bill into law given the fact that there was still an appeal pending against e-tolling.

“We were under the impression that the presidency was going to take some time to consider the questions relating to the correct tagging of the bill before signing it into law,” Duvenage said.

Duvenage said Zuma signing the bill into law meant Sanral could proceed with launching e-tolling in Gauteng.

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