'E-tolls are part of larger highway project'

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters announced yesterday that e-tolling will begin on 3 December.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters announced that the e-toll system will go live on 3 December. Picture: Alex Eliseev/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Government has moved to assure Gauteng residents that any further upgrades to the province's highways will be accompanied by extensive public consultation.

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters announced yesterday that the controversial e-tolling system will commence on 3 December.

One of the biggest criticisms against e-tolling has always been that the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) failed to adequately consult motorists, with many slamming the roads agency for sneaking the system in under the umbrella of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Gauteng Transport MEC Ismail Vadi says e-tolling is part of a larger project to upgrade the province's highways.

"There will be extensive consultation on the remaining phases. I think we have learnt the lesson that if there is inadequate consultation, the public then doesn't necessarily support a particular project."

The launch date has been met with widespread anger and calls for civil disobedience.

Critics of the multibillion rand project say it will collapse due to the high number of motorists who won't pay for e-tolling.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa)'s Wayne Duvenage says Sanral won't be able to cope with the number of motorists who don't pay.

"This is just an absolute rip-off. It is enriching companies overseas."

But Peters says Sanral will do an exceptional job of managing the project.

Outa abandoned its legal battle last month after the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed its bid to stop e-tolling.

The Bloemfontein court ruled the application was too late.

But a new legal bid to stop e-tolling has been launched by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

It is still not clear when the hearing will be heard.

The opposition party plans to use a technicality relating to how the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill was handled in Parliament and whether there was enough consultation.

The DA believes it can prove the bill is unconstitutional.

President Jacob Zuma in September signed the bill into law, which effectively gave the green light for the controversial system to be implemented.

NO SPECIAL E-TOLL COURTS

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe says while there are no plans to establish special e-toll courts, ordinary courts will be reviewed to determine their capacity requirements once the gantries go live.

The DA raised the issue with Radebe in Parliament yesterday amid speculation that special courts would be established to prosecute motorists who don't pay for tolling.

DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Debbie Schafer says district courts should be reviewed all the time and not only once the e-toll process begins.

"There are often long delays in the finalisation of cases and there is no reason why government interests should be prioritised over the interests of normal South Africans."