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E-tags not compulsory

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Associations against e-tolling have called the National Roads Act (NRA) draft regulations, published for comment last week, an act of desperation by the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral).

The Department of Transport (DOT) on 27 March gazetted the Sanral and National Roads Act, Regulations, 2012. Interested persons are invited to send written comments on the draft regulations within 20 days from the date of publication to the attention of Trevor Mphahlele, via MphahleT@dot.gov.za; or the DOT at Private Bag X193, Pretoria, 0002.

The Southern African Vehicle Rental Leasing Association (Savrala) says the changes to the legislation will effectively mean drivers will be legally forced to buy e-tags.

Chairman Paul Pauwen says people will oppose such changes to the legislation. “It shows that they [Sanral] are desperate. You can't force people to buy an e-tag. You can't force people to buy anything. It's against the constitution. I don't know how they're going to manage that.”

Despite this and several media reports saying e-toll users will now be forced to buy e-tags, Sanral today said it is not compulsory for road users to buy tags. “Registering with an e-tag is optional. Road users are therefore not forced to buy an e-tag but are encouraged to obtain one to enjoy the cost saving benefits available to e-tag users.”

CEO police

The draft regulations seek to introduce amendments to the current regulations in order to facilitate enforcement of the pending e-tolling in Gauteng, set to be implemented on 30 April.

It says “authorised employees” will be empowered to request e-tags and driving licences from motorists. Invalid documents and tags can be confiscated and impounded. The officers will also be empowered to enter any motor vehicle in order to check on the legitimacy of the e-tags.

The “authorised employees” can also, while in a uniform approved by Sanral's CEO, require drivers to stop their vehicles; and question the driver of a vehicle about whether their tolls have been paid.

“Where such an employee reasonably suspects that there are outstanding tolls or other surcharges, fees, fines or penalties payable in respect of the Act in respect of any vehicle, he or she must inform the driver of the vehicle that he or she must not continue to use the toll road if he or she does not make arrangements to pay those tolls and other amounts,” says the draft legislation.

Confiscating licences

The legislation says an employee who has been appointed must be appointed as a peace officer in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977. Also, “an authorised employee shall not exercise any such power or perform any such duty unless he or she is in possession of a certificate of appointment issued by the chief executive officer”.

However, Democratic Alliance Gauteng transport spokesperson Neil Campbell says there is contention with the legislation empowering Sanral CEO Nazir Alli to appoint his own police force to ensure toll compliance on Gauteng freeways.

“The regulations allow the CEO to appoint peace officers who will have sweeping powers to stop, search and confiscate any document found in the vehicle, including drivers' licences, at their sole discretion.

“The legality of summarily confiscating a document, required by law to be in a driver's possession, must be tested. The draft legislation reeks of the arrogant high-handedness, which has come to symbolise government's and Sanral's inept handling of the hugely unpopular Gauteng urban tolls.”

Illegal police

Campbell adds that, in light of the actions that have been initiated against the tolls in court and with the National Consumer Commission, this legislation could be considered an act of desperation to intimidate motorists into accepting e-tolling.

“At the very best, the draft is an over-reaction to the toll dilemma, which Alli and the minister have created for themselves. It's appalling to create a police force merely to enforce unjust taxes.”

He says it's not legal because the only people allowed to have peace makers are the police, under the ministry of police and the community safety department for municipalities.

“I think it's scare tactics. They know it's about to fail. No judge in their right mind would be able to do anything besides impose an interdict, unless they're placed there for political reasons.

“The steering committee was a farce. Everything was predetermined. There hasn't been any cognisance of what the people are saying. If there's civil disobedience they'll flounder. The whole judicial system will crumble. It's a cry of desperation, but I do hope the public will send through copious comment.”

The NCC hearings against e-tolling will take place on Thursday.

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