The rise and fall of the infamous e-tolls in Gauteng

E-Tolls on the N1 highway near the Rigel road offramp. File Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

E-Tolls on the N1 highway near the Rigel road offramp. File Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Apr 14, 2024


Since the electronic tolling system (e-tolls) was first gazetted in 2007 and eventually put in place in 2013, its no secret that 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 (OUTA) 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

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.

Despite public outcry and court battles, fines to use the freeways in the economic hub were put into motion.

Cosatu members during a protest march against e-tolls in the Joburg. File Photo: Paballo Thekiso

Why were e-tolls introduced?

In 2008, while the country was still looking forward to hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) announced that it would be renovating highways in the province.

Sanral is a government entity mandated with the development, maintenance, and management of all the country’s national roads.

Austrian company, Kapsch TrafficCom, in a joint venture with local companies, won a tender to build and operate the e-tolling system.

The project cost over R20 billion to build and maintain.

OUTA said it believed the construction improvements were supposed to cost between R6 billion and R7 billion, but ended up costing the taxpayers over R17.9 billion, due largely to gross maladministration and corruption.

Sanral intended to recuperate the funds by making motorists pay for the e-tolling system.

Taxis and buses were exempted from the pool.

Did people pay for e-tolls?

According to OUTA’s chief executive Wayne Duvenage, when the system was first introduced, at least 20% of motorists were paying but the number significantly dropped over the years.

Duvenage said most of these payments were coming from businesses such government fleet, car rentals companies and logistics companies.

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%.

Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi said the 30% amounted to about R12 billion, which they would have to borrow from a financial institution.

What happens to those who were paying for e-tolls?

According to OUTA, In January 2023 during the State of the Province Address, Lesufi announced that R6.9 billion will be refunded to those who had paid e-tolls.

The Gauteng Premier has since cleared the air and said he was misrepresented, Moneyweb reported.

On Wednesday, Transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga said road users will not be required to do anything when e-tolling is cancelled, however, motorists who have accounts will still be expected to pay their outstanding debts.

Duvenage said OUTA will defend every motorist who receives a summons from Sanral for outstanding e-toll debt, provided they give OUTA the mandate to do so and that OUTA has the funds to do so.

“We will not merely accept government’s irrational plan to collect debt on their inefficient, costly and largely unworkable system, especially since they themselves announced that e-tolls will be cancelled,” Duvenage said.

What happens to e-toll accounts?

The Sanral account will still be valid, and motorists can still use their tags as a toll payment method at all conventional toll plazas. Accounts will remain active and working as long as the mobility and tag account has sufficient funds and is topped up.

The Sanral account is still valid and has sufficient balance and motorists can use their Sanral account, if it is linked to an e-tag, as a parking payment method at the participating malls. A list of the malls is available on the Sanral App.

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