E-tolls - 'A messy showdown'

With e-tolls set to go live after midnight tonight, many motorists say they will never register.

With e-tolls set to go live after midnight tonight, many motorists say they will never register.  Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) says since the launch date was announced last month, more than 20,000 e-tags have been sold bringing the total to 730,000.

With just hours to go until gantries go live, there are warnings that the launch will be a messy showdown with major unintended consequences.

The controversial project is due to launch a minute after midnight tonight after a year-and-a-half of delays, court battles and protests.

Sanral says it's ready to switch on the gantries and believes motorists will accept e-tolling.

The agency's Vusi Mona says from an IT and systems perspective, all systems are ready to go.

"There could be a few problems here and there, but like with any new system it's normal. We have plans in place."

But Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance's Wayne Duvenage maintains it's just a matter of time before the system collapses.

"It's going to be a messy showdown. It's never too late to undo a bad mistake."

Duvenage says e-tolling is failing in Portugal and has already collapsed in cities like Manchester and Hong Kong.

He added the system can only work if the public buy into it.


At the same time, a last-minute attempt to try and stop the implementation of e-tolling is due to be heard in the North Gauteng High Court today.

Last week, the Freedom Front Plus (FFP) applied for an urgent court interdict against e-tolling.

The party launched the fresh legal action using a technical argument about the law governing the system.

The Democratic Alliance is also approaching the high court, but it's unclear when the hearing will take place.

With less than 24 hours to go, controversy around the project continues, with new efforts to stop it and fresh calls for civil disobedience.

E-tolls have been met with anger from the public with protests, drive slows and a long failed legal bid to stop the process.

One of the biggest criticisms against the project has been that Sanral failed to adequately consult motorists.

Some motorists accuses the roads agency of sneaking the system in under the umbrella of the 2010 World Cup.

Many motorists say they will not be buying e-tags.

"I don't want my right as a citizen who pays taxes stripped and that's why I won't buy it," said one.

Another said, "I'm already a good taxpayer, I'm loyal to the government and I shouldn't be made to pay more."