E-toll nonpayment cannot stop license renewal

OUTA welcomes the clarification by the Director of Licensing and prosecutions of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department that unpaid e-toll bills cannot lead to the withholding of vehicle licenses

April 2, 2014

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance welcomes the clarification by the Director of Licensing and prosecutions of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department Mr Gerrie Gerneke, that unpaid e-toll bills cannot lead to the withholding of vehicle license registrations. Speaking on Talk Radio 702 earlier this week, he explained that “there’s no legislation which prohibits motorists from renewing their vehicle licenses if they have outstanding e-toll bills”.

His explanation clarifies that the failure to pay an e-toll bill was not a traffic infringement, and that the traffic authorities have no jurisdiction over non-payment of e-tolls bills.

“This is the first unambiguous statement from any authority that we have heard on a major issue of confusion surrounding e-toll bills” says John Clarke, OUTA spokesperson. “It will not please Sanral to have the ambiguity clarified, as the ‘threat’ of a withholding of a vehicle license, along with bad debt and criminal records has caused many motorists to contact OUTA seeking reassurance.”

Instead of developing a non-criminal form of sanction, Sanral opted for the big stick approach by legislating that the non-payment of e-tolls would be regarded a criminal offence. “Applied together with exorbitant punitive tariffs, Sanral thought this would give the State sufficient clout to force users to submit to the system” Clarke said. “Alas it has totally backfired. It is absolutely outrageous that the Legislature and Executive arms of government ever countenanced the criminalisation of non payment of e-tolls” Clarke added. “The difference between the ‘rule OF law’ and ‘rule BY law’ is not simply a matter of semantics. There is a huge difference. Unjust laws only serve to undermine the rule of law by delegitimising the State and blunting its authority to maintain order.”

So far nobody has been charged or arrested for non-payment of e-tolls, despite there being no shortage of ‘suspects’ for the ‘crime’. Zwelinzima Vavi, Mark Heywood, Bishop Geoff Davies, Wayne Duvenage, Fr Mike Deeb, Kay Sexwale and Howard Dembovsky have all invited prosecution by refusing to pay e-tolls. “There have also been no shortage of people eager to beat them to the privilege to be the first person to be charged and brought to trial as a conscientious objector, to stir the moral conscience of the government and society” Clarke added. “This e-toll system not only lacks strategic sense and operational efficiency, it lacks ethical justification. It must be consigned to history as an unjust and oppressive system, just as we did with apartheid laws.”

OUTA believes that when the history of the e-toll saga is written, it will be the foolish and oppressive attempt to criminalisation of non-payment of e-tolls that will be shown to have been the main cause of the downfall of e-tolling.