Since the Deputy President’s announcement on Tuesday 20 May 2015 wherein it was stated that e-tolls would be linked to licence disc renewals, Justice Project South Africa has received numerous queries with respect to whether this concept would be legal.
As things stand right now, this provision, along with all of the other changes announced around e-tolls yesterday will have to be reduced to writing in the form draft regulations amendments and such draft published for public comment. Interested parties will then have 30 days from the time of publication of that government gazette to make written representations to the Department of Transport.
Only when that process has completed and the Minister of Transport has applied her mind to all of the submissions received, may she publish amended regulations and proclaim a commencement date therefor.
JPSA is of the opinion that withholding the issue of licence discs, whilst sounding easy enough, may not pass constitutional muster since, amongst other things, it would be tantamount forcing a person who has in fact paid licence fees to renew their licence but to whom a licence disc has been refused to contravene the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2000 by not displaying a current licence as prescribed.
Even if this proposed amendment were to pass constitutional muster, there is no guarantee whatsoever that holding motorists to ransom by withholding a licence disc would have the desired effect of forcing people to pay their outstanding e-toll bills.
In fact, quite the opposite is true and the possibility of a whole new industry of mass false licence disc production could become a very real possibility. Displaying a counterfeit licence disc is a serious criminal offence for which a person would be charged criminally and such counterfeit discs can be detected by the equipment contained in the now infamous “e-toll roadblocks” SANRAL vans and trucks.
Not displaying a current licence disc is however, under the AARTO Act, a minor infringement which results in a R250 fine (discounted by 50% if paid within 32 days). The consequence of not paying such a fine could, after the prescribed period and processes have ensued, lead to an enforcement order being issued, thereby blocking licensing transactions on eNaTIS against the person whose licence disc has already been refused.
In other words, that person would then not only have unpaid e-tolls and no licence disc, but would also have one or more unpaid traffic fines which can currently proceed no further than an enforcement order and would therefore constitute no real further consequence.
If this provision does go through and people dig their heels in, it may be found by the Gauteng Provincial Government and all licensing authorities in Gauteng that the tactic of withholding licence discs will have a profound negative impact on their own licensing income revenues.
With Gauteng’s vehicle population being the greatest in South Africa (38.87% of the country’s total vehicle population of 11,493,608 as at 31 March 2015) the licensing fees generated in Gauteng are far from chump-change and if people stop paying them, this will represent a significant revenue drain for the province and for the Department of Transport.
It is indeed a pity that government has insisted on persisting with trying to make what has already demonstrated itself to be a failed and unworkable system, which is additionally enormously unpopular and entirely inappropriate for South Africa work.
National Chairman – Justice Project South Africa (NPC)