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Business as usual on Gauteng roads

Motorists are now paying to use Gauteng's highways after the e-toll system went live at midnight.

Motorists are now paying to use Gauteng's highways after the e-toll system went live at midnight. Picture: Aki Anastasiou/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng motorists are now paying to use the province's highways after the multibillion rand e-tolling system finally went live at midnight after months of legal wrangling, protests and calls for civil disobedience.

The JMPD's Edna Mamonyane says some routes, like the M1, are under a great deal of pressure today.

"We're advising motorists to try and not use the M1 until 11am as you might not make it to work."

EWN Traffic's Aki Anastasiou spent two hours in a helicopter this morning and says tolled routes were flowing normally.

"The roads are flowing pretty smoothly across Gauteng. There's some pressure on the M1 north, but the N1, the N3, N12 and alternative routes are flowing pretty well."

Meanwhile, from the heart of the e-toll Collection and Highway Monitoring System in Midrand, a bank of LCD screens, five metres wide and three metres high, displays video feeds from across the Gauteng Highway Network.

But the real work is done inside the computer servers housed in the complex, which monitor the gantry network and administer toll collection.

Officials say so far, everything is running smoothly.

South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) confirmed the systems have experienced no glitches or shutdowns since going live.

The agency's Alex Van Niekerk says it's business as usual.

"There is nothing spectacular happening. The system has already been running for more than a year and at one minute past midnight, we just added toll values to the system."

The e-toll gantry on the N1 highway near the Rivonia offramp. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

Over 800,000 e-tags have been bought, but critics believe Sanral won't cope with chasing up motorists who have not registered.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa)'s Wayne Duvenage says most of society has remained defiant despite the launch.

"When tolling starts on projects like this, they have to start with 90 percent compliance and here they are not even close to that."

Sanral are expected give the nation a full report in a few hours time on how the multibillion rand system is coping.

CALLS FOR DEFIANCE

Civil society, opposition parties and churches have vowed to keep fighting the controversial project, hoping to collapse it through defiance and non-compliance.

Protests and meetings opposing the system's launch will be held this morning by numerous organisations like the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Democratic Alliance.

The first anti e-tolling march is expected to get underway in Rivonia shortly.

Unplanned marches might also flare-up, but authorities are keeping a watchful eye.

Cosatu is also due to host a briefing to reaffirm its opposition.

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

But it remains to be seen what impact these efforts will have on the effectiveness of the system.

Yesterday, a last-ditch application brought by the Freedom Front Plus to interdict the system was struck off the roll in a Pretoria court.

'DRIVERS HAVE NO CHOICE'

The overwhelming sentiment from motorists interviewed at Sanral outlets yesterday was that they simply have no choice but to comply.

One motorist said financially, the extra expense is going to be challenging.

"They have warned us that they will take legal action against us. People don't have money, but they still want to take the little we have left."

Another motorist said he has to comply because he doesn't want to face the consequences for non-compliance.

Others said they won't be getting e-tags.

Meanwhile, Eyewitness News commissioned market research company, Ask Afrika, to conduct a snap survey of the province's drivers a day ahead of the launch.

The story which emerged is that nine out of 10 people had waited until the last moment to buy their e-tags, but a third of the 220 people said they will eventually cooperate.

The company's Paidi Mugudubi says the research found that majority of motorists are willing to switch to alternate routes, but don't believe these will cope if flooded with extra cars.

Sanral has urged motorists not to break the law or face living with a criminal record.

Mugudubi said it would be interesting to go back and question these motorists a few months down the line.

"At the moment, there seems to be an indication that there is a lot of apathy, but it's different when you actually have a debt collector at your door."