E-toll debts on hold, but don’t pop the champagne just yet

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E tolls

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E-toll debts on hold, but don’t pop the champagne just yet. There has been no official announcement that this is the end of the controversial system, and we ‘have learnt through experience not to trust Sanral’. The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) yesterday issued a statement to inform the public of their “urgent resolution” during a board meeting to halt all e-toll summonses.

The statement read: “It resolved that given the initiative led by President Cyril Ramaphosa to address the e-tolls payment impasse, Sanral will, with immediate effect, suspend the process of pursuing the e-toll debt.

An announcement that the contentious Gauteng e-tolls debt collection would be put on ice may be welcome news, but critics of the project are not convinced. “This includes historic debt and summonses applied for from 2015. No new summonses will be applied for.” They also gave assurances that the same board would be monitoring and reviewing the decision.

Experts have, however, warned road users not to get too excited, especially since the announcement has come just before the elections and there is a remarkable “absence of proof” that the decision would be permanent.

They said the public should not see this as being a concrete decision as far as e-tolls were concerned as Sanral did not provide a clear indication on how it planned to recover all its debts and no word about the issue has yet been uttered by officials.

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) CEO Wayne Duvenage said although the news was excellent as it was an indication that the end was near, Outa was cautiously optimistic. “They have only suspended the process of challenging people legally when it comes to the outstanding debt. “We’d like to know what this means for the future of e-tolls,” he said.

Duvenage said the organisation was also waiting for more clarity on how the matter would be resolved and until the roads were officially declared non-toll roads and Sanral withdrew the court cases and all summonses against e-toll defaulters, it would continue to fight against the “irrational” Gauteng e-tolls.

“While there is lots to be positive about, we can’t yet pop the champagne. “We must remain vigilant and treat this suspension as a temporary situation, as the e-toll debt collection could possibly be relaunched again in future, such as after the election,” said Duvenage.

e-toll

Justice Project South Africa chairperson Howard Dembovsky also said it was great news but he had learnt from experience not to trust Sanral. He said it was a step in the right direction of getting rid of e-tolls. “But I’m not naive [about the issue]. We don’t know what they have up their sleeves.

“Until we hear from the president, minister of transport or minister of finance and National Treasury that e-tolls are scrapped, I am not celebrating. “Where there is an absence of proof, we should assume [e-tolls] are staying,” said Dembovsky.

Sanral could not be reached for comment on how it plans to tackle the debt it incurred during the erection of the gantries, and what alternative funding model it plans to adopt.

The agency suffered another setback last week when the country’s credit agencies announced they would refuse to blacklist road users for unpaid e-toll debts, and that those already blacklisted by Sanral would be removed.

Source: The Citizen

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