More than 52% of motorists believe there is nothing government can do to convince them to start paying their e-tolls on Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) roads, according to research conducted by the Automobile Association (AA).
Government corruption is the dominant reason for this view, with 78% of motorists citing government corruption as the reason for deciding not to pay their e-tolls.
Further reasons provided by respondents include the fact that no alternative routes were created and they were forced to use e-toll roads (52%), no safe and affordable public transport exists (46%), they did not feel their commute had been improved (45%) and e-toll costs were too high (34%).
Respondents who claimed they could not afford the additional costs of e-tolls said they were already overtaxed and paying other fees and taxes to provide for road improvements.
Tolls shouldn’t be necessary
The association quoted the response of one respondent who said: “We are already taxed to breaking point. If our tax money is managed and spent properly, it will not be necessary to have e-tolls.”
The AA released the research report last week together its second open letter to Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, who President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed to head a task team that must report to him by the end of this month on the options on the table with regard to e-tolls.
Mbalula said last month he was seeking a “win-win”” solution for government and society to the GFIP e-toll saga and questioned “how do we meet each other halfway in this?”
The AA said in its first open letter to Mbalula last month the only fair and sensible approach to e-tolls was to immediately suspend e-tolling in Gauteng and reimburse consumers who have paid e-tolls since 2013.
The association said a ring-fenced e-toll levy linked to the General Fuel Levy (GFL) was the only equitable and viable means of funding the GFIP.
“Our research indicates people will not pay under the current conditions. It also shows that debt is not a factor in people’s decisions.
“Most users are not paying because of a principled position taken years ago and no amount of cajoling or enticement will change their minds,” the AA says.
In its second open letter, the AA highlighted that the findings of the research were clear and unambiguous: the current model for the GFIP has failed and will continue to fail if pursued.
The association stressed this was not the view of the AA but the view of those who were being asked to pay for the e-tolls system.
Almost 80% of the people in the AA research sample indicated they used e-toll roads in Gauteng and 51.64% did not agree at all with the statement that “if we want a road transport infrastructure that works, we need to pay our tolls”.
The statement added: “The government remains committed to the user-pays principle because it is the most efficient and effective way to ensure that the direct benefits of services are paid for by those who use them.”
Of those respondents who indicated they paid their e-tolls, 28% said they were registered e-toll users and had a tag, while 11% said they paid their e-toll accounts but did not have a tag.
Why some still pay
The major reasons provided for paying e-tolls were that the motorist felt the cost was worth the improvements to their commute (26%), felt it was their civic duty to pay (21%), were afraid of the legal consequences of non-payment (17%) and wanted to avoid prosecution (14%).
Close to 12% indicated that they used to pay their e-toll accounts but no longer do, while 38% said they had never paid their e-tolls accounts.
The AA again urged Mbalula and his colleagues deliberating the future of e-tolls to consider as the only way forward the immediate suspension of e-tolling in Gauteng; the immediate reimbursement of monies collected to those few who have paid to date; the introduction of a levy linked to the General Fuel Levy which is ring-fenced for e-tolls; and the immediate cessation of harassment by the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) of motorists who remained committed to not paying under the current model.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) reported last week that it planned to challenge the constitutionality of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Act and expressed concern that the new act could be used to force Gauteng motorists to pay e-tolls.