Criminalising e-tolls is 'backwards'

A constitutional and public law expert says criminalising e-tolls would strain the justice system.

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

CAPE TOWN - A constitutional and public law expert says criminalising e-tolls is a step backwards.

On Monday, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) said failure to pay toll fees regardless whether an invoice was issued or not was against the law.

The controversial e-tolls went live on 3 December and many motorists have vowed not to pay them.

Over 720,000 e-tags have been sold thus far according to Sanral.

Professor Marinus Wiechers told 567 CapeTalk that criminalising e-tolls was wrong.

"This whole idea of criminalising e-tolls is a step backwards."

Wiechers said the police don't have the manpower to deal with e-tolls.

"Criminal proceedings are very expensive and they take a long time. We know that our police force is under severe pressure. So in this respect, if you are going to have a whole criminal procedure is going to be costly and longwinded."

Wiechers said those who refuse to pay e-tolls don't consider themselves to be criminals.

"You can't create offences and criminalise things that people by conviction don't consider to be a criminal offence. People may feel sorry or bad that they are not paying e-tolls but they don't consider themselves to be criminals."

However, he says the courts cannot do much to amend the act.

"You can't really go to court and correct bad government. The law has to be fought on the political terrain. That is the responsibility of government and Parliament."

Meanwhile, Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) spokesperson John Clarke says e-tolls may come back to haunt the ANC.

"Self-respecting ANC should be very worried because this is completely contrary to what the whole liberation struggle was about. Now we are contemplating civil disobedience in a democratic era."