‘Nah, we still won’t pay e-tolls debt’: AfriForum says it will take up court case if Sanral presses any motorist

E-toll gantries on the N1 at night. File Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

E-toll gantries on the N1 at night. File Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Published Apr 15, 2024


Civil rights group AfriForum says it is ready to take up the legal battle with the Department of Transport and the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) if any motorist is pressed to pay the historic debt relating to the gantries on Gauteng’s freeways.

Last week, IOL reported that the e-tolls have been permanently scrapped, but motorists will still be expected to pay their outstanding debts.

The Government Gazette was published just towards the end of March, however, how the debts will be collected from motorists will be announced at a later stage.

AfriForum said it will take the matter to court, if any motorist is pushed to pay for the e-tolls debt.

E-tolls gantries on the N1 highway near the Rigel Road offramp. File Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

“They (government) have done it in the past, where they refuse people to renew their drivers licences, so they can use this route or they can do it via summonses. But we are ready to take on the first court case and just lay the principles and foundations for this court case in order to assist motorists going forward and in the future by providing full legal services to them,” AfriForum’s Charne Mostert spoke to broadcaster.

“We are ready and our legal team is ready, should this happen, to assist wherever possible.”

Mostert said at this stage, no motorists have approached AfriForum indicating that they have been pushed to pay the e-tolls debt.

She added that AfriForum will not be charging motorists for the legal representation.

“No, there is no cost involved. It is setting the precedent, laying the foundation for the first court case in order to assist more people going forward. Of course, we are a civil rights organisation, but assisting the first motorist and only motorist will lay the foundation and set the precedent going forward to be able to help more individuals,” she said.

AfriForum, however, indicated that it would be assisting motorists who have not made an undertaking, in the form of a signed contract, indicating their willingness to pay for the e-tolls.

“If you signed a contract, you are obliged to pay, so there is a big difference between the two. I am no legal expert, but we can only assist individuals who do not have a contract because there is a big difference between the two (motorists who signed up to pay and those who refused to sign),” said Mostert.

Everyday for an hour, 68-year-old Cavey Parker would stand in protest on top of a bridge with his banners against e-tolls, and waving the South African flag. File Picture: Paballo Thekiso

On Sunday, IOL reported that since the electronic tolling system (e-tolls) was first gazetted in 2007 and eventually put in place in 2013, its no secret that the majority of Gauteng motorists were unreceptive towards the idea of paying to use the province’s highways.

The e-toll system was also scorned by trade unions and civil organisations.

From March 2012, Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Oout) which was intentionally formed to fight e-tolls, rigorously opposed the implementation of e-tolls until it lost an appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in October 2013.

Following the loss, former Transport Minister Dipuo Peters announced that e-tolls would go live on December 3, 2013.

Former minister of transport Dipuo Peters. File Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

In a last minute attempt, Freedom Front Plus tried to stop the e-tolls and had their application struck from the roll by the High Court in Pretoria on December 2, 2013.

According to a report by the Daily Maverick, Sanral failed to collect over R9 billion from motorists.

To pay for the uncollected debt as well as the money used to keep the tolling system operating, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced that the government would take 70% of Sanral’s debt, while the province takes over 30%.

Last week, Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga and Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi led the celebrations on Thursday midnight as the government officially terminated the e-tolls.

Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

There was ululation and screams as the clock hit midnight, bringing an end to a system that most South Africans have refused to buy into and pay for after many years.