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Non-paying e-toll motorists won't be prosecuted

The dept says as govt tries to find a solution, no motorists will be prosecuted.

FILE: Sanral is promising to implement any solution agreed to and instructed by government. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Transport says it will not prosecute any motorists who are not paying their e-toll bills at this stage as long as government is still in talks about the system and administrative glitches are not dealt with.

Gauteng Premier David yesterday released a report by the e-tolls assessment panel he established last year to assess the socio-economic impact of e-tolls on Gauteng motorists.

Among the 50 findings, the report also suggests that elements of the system must be reviewed.

The report says those who cannot afford the e-tolls are forced to use the tolled highways while the high income group manage to avoid the roads.

Department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso says some people has stop paying their e-tolls bills after Makhura announced the system would be assessed.

"That could have had an effect on the level of compliance where maybe some people felt it's a process that will eventually bring an end to e-tolling and we don't appreciate that."

He says government is still sorting out some of the issues with the system.

The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) says it's still in a difficult financial position and need motorists to pay their bills.

SANRAL AGAINST THE ROPES

At the same time, the roads agency says it will only take instructions from national government over e-tolls, but has promised to implement whatever solution is agreed to.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is leading talks with the Gauteng government to consider the recommendations made by the assessment panel dealing with e-tolls.

Sanral's Vusi Mona says it must be kept in mind that the agency has a massive debt to repay.

"But whatever the outcome, Sanral has no option to say, we will implement this, we can't implement that. Sanral is a government policy."

Makhura says they will now have to consider a hybrid funding model, meaning there could be different sources of paying for the highways.

He says a flat rate is being explored for motorists.

The e-tolls panel's report contains recommendations from how to deal with the funding to the impact on the environment.

A meeting between political parties, labour and business will be held next month to discuss the most affordable way for motorists to pay for the upgraded highways.

Makhura says the e-toll assessment panel's report suggests that township-based enterprises are being forced to travel on tolled highways to do business in cities.

He said people who can only afford to live on the outskirts of the province are hit the hardest by e-tolling fees.

Makhura said the report will now be extensively discussed with national government in order to come up with a definite solution on how to pay back Sanral's debt and fund future road infrastructure.

At the same time, the African National Congress (ANC) in Gauteng says it's pleased with the recommendations of the e-tolls assessment panel, saying it has "listened to the cries of the people," as low and middle income households are being hardest hit by e-tolling.

Last year, the ANC in Gauteng adopted a resolution not to support the multi-billion rand system.

ANC chairperson in the province, Paul Mashatile, "As the ANC, we are very happy. The system is expensive and people can't afford it.

The controversial e-tolling system went live on 3 December, 2013, despite public outcry.