Is govt monitoring your movements via e-tolls?

The system's ability to take photos could be used to build a picture of a person's movements over time.

Gantry on N1 highway near the Rivonia off-ramp. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Concerns are now being raised about whether the e-toll gantries used by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) on the highways between Johannesburg and Pretoria could actually be used by government officials to see where people have been and where they are going.

Journalism professor Jane Duncan says people have not realised that the e-tag system and the picture-taking abilities of those gantries could then be used to build up a picture of a person's movements over time.

She says that is an intrusion on locational privacy and says this information could be used for nefarious purposes.

"They could access the metadata from Sanral in order to build a historical picture of your movements in the same way as cellphone providers can provide the same data."


Meanhile, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that the roads agency owes about R20 billion, but added that there had been a positive response from the public since the change in e-toll fees.

He gave the figure in the National Assembly while answering a follow-up question about the new e-toll road dispensation.

He told members of Parliament the government had heeded concerns about the burden of high e-toll fees on middle- and lower-income households and therefore government decided to reduce the cap from R450 to R225.

Ramaphosa says the national and Gauteng fiscus would provide funds to close the gap.

"Sanral owes something like R20 billion and the money has been raised through a variety of bonds that have certain time frames."

Ramaphosa defended Gauteng's e-tolls, saying that governments sometimes had to take decisions in the interest of all citizens.

"At times they do take an unpopular decision with a view of advancing the view of the many and this is precisely what has had to happen."

"The new dispensation dramatically reduces the costs of all motorists travelling on Gauteng's freeways. It doesn't penalise people who don't have e-tags."

In May Ramaphosa ended months of speculation, announcing a new model for e-tolls which would see many costs for consumers halved.