E-toll launch edges closer

The controversial Gauteng tolling system is set to go live at midnight.

An e-toll gantry on the N1 in Johannesburg. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - With just hours to go until e-tolling gantries go live, there have been fresh calls for protests, a last-minute rush for e-tags and a decision by a high court to throw out an application to stop the system.

E-tolls will officially launch across major highways in Gauteng at midnight.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) says its systems are ready and it expects nothing more than teething problems in what has become a massively controversial project.

However, critics such as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) say the system will collapse.

They believe Sanral will be unable to cope with the number of motorists prepared to defy e-tolling.

The agency now says it has sold over 800,000 e-tags, while there are an estimated 2.5 million or more motorists in the province.

Reports of queues at Sanral's outlets are still coming in, with some motorists saying they can't afford to not buy e-tags.

"It will save me money because, otherwise, if I take the highway then I will pay double," one woman says.

A man in the queue said he would still support Cosatu in the struggle, but had no choice but to buy his e-tag.

A protest is due to take place on Tuesday morning.

At the same time, an angry Cosatu says e-tolling could land up costing the ANC votes next year.

Meanwhile, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder says his party will now decide whether to abandon or continue its legal battle against e-tolling.

This after it lost a bid to halt the system on Monday morning.

"Technically, we did not come to the point where we could argue the merits of the case - we still believe we've got some merit. The judge said it was not urgent and we could come later. Later could be three months or six months, I'm not sure."