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'Public should start buying e-tags'

Sanral has warned Gauteng motorists to start buying e-tags or risk criminal prosecution.

E-tolls. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) says with all the e-tolling hurdles now cleared, motorists must buy their e-tags to avoid the risk of criminal prosecution.

President Jacob Zuma announced he had signed a bill into law which paves the way for Sanral to switch on the system across Gauteng.

This came as the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein heard a bid by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) to stop the entire project on Wednesday.

Zuma signed the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill into law on Wednesday afternoon.

In effect, this provides the green light for the collection of tolls in Gauteng.

The news that the bill had been signed follows months of uncertainty and speculation over when e-tolling would begin.

Sanral has dismissed concerns by critics and maintains the system will launch soon.

But the roads agency says it's not yet ready to reveal exactly when the system will be launched as it's still waiting for the Minister of Transport to finish a few final administrative tasks.

Sanral's Vusi Mona warned people not to take chances with the new system.

"I know of people who have gone through our gantries without paying and they were prosecuted. Today, they have a criminal record."

But the system's critics have called for motorists not to support e-tolling, claiming the project will eventually be abandoned.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says the real e-tolling fight is only beginning and society will continue to reject the unpopular system.

Cosatu's Patrick Craven says the system will have to be abandoned because of how unpopular and unworkable it is.

"The real fight is just beginning. Up until now there have just been skirmishes."

The Democratic Alliance's Mmusi Maimane says motorists must now use their votes to oppose e-tolling.

"I think it's very clear that the people of Gauteng, under the pressure of the 2010 World Cup, are now being asked to finance a very expensive project."

Outa Chairperson Wayne Duvenage says e-tolling is doomed.

"If they could wind back the clock looking forward a year or so from now they're going to regret the day they introduced e-tolling if they ever do."

Outa has called on Sanral to prove its claim that e-tolling is ready to launch.

But Mona says only pessimists want e-tolls to fail.

"We have never doubted the commitment of the head of state to the policies of the very government that he leads."

The SCA has reserved judgment, but the legal process does not stand in the way of e-tolls going live.

'SYSTEM CAN'T BE ENFORCED'

Duvenage says despite the President signing the so called e-toll bill into law, the system cannot be enforced on the people.

He spoke to Talk At Nine about Outa's day in court and the alliance's continued battle to fight the implementation of e-tolling.

The alliance is appealing an earlier judgment in favour of Sanral.

Despite initially securing an urgent interdict against e-tolling in April last year, Outa is yet to convince a court to intervene in government policy.

Duvenage said Outa is shocked that Zuma signed the bill.

"The Presidency said they needed more time to unpack the issue and why they signed it is a mystery".

Asked if he thought Zuma's timing of signing the bill would impact the legal process, Duvenage said no.

"It was a tough day in court because the judges were very astute and they grilled the advocates from both sides, but nonetheless we're happy with the proceedings."

Duvenage said he doesn't know which way the judgement will go, but said Outa will keep fighting against e-tolling regardless.

"If you don't consult with the people and be transparent, the people will fight back. If they make it ungovernable by exercising passive resistance then it will not work. E-tolling can't be enforced on us as we will not accept it."

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