The latest debacle and confusion around the how the authorities intend to enforce e-tolling offenders is yet another example of how little thought was given to this process. We have stated for some time now that the electronic tolling of the Gauteng Freeways has been poorly planned with very little (practically zero) participation and engagement with the users.
The long term sustainability of e-tolling in Gauteng (and in South Africa as a whole) will be challenged because of the sheer weight of the practical governance thereof. Often, elaborate plans come to naught because of the oversight that 'legislation is only as good as its ability to be enforced' and we all know how non-enforcement leads to non-compliance, which may ultimately see the system implode on itself. With an estimated 2 million plus gantry transactions per day, a mere 10% non-compliance and each gantry being a spate offence, the authorities will be hard pressed and virtually impossible to manage the hundreds and thousands of offences - daily. Many estimate non-compliance to be much higher than 10% if the traffic fine non-compliance is any guideline.
The spiral that will feed the implosion starts when the honest citizen realises they are footing the bill for the non-compliant road user, cloned number plates etc. Already the frustration levels are rising from the exemption of taxi's from e-tolling. The reasons provided by SANRAL, reducing costs for the poorer commuter, are not transparent as taxi's are not exempt from long distance tolls. The "real" or perceived reason is because the taxi industry will not participate willingly in e-tolling, nor can they be governed and they will, as they have in the past, blockade the freeways in protest.
The biggest issue is that the honest citizen - who has no problem paying for urban road infrastructure upgrades - fast becomes frustrated about the additional R1,5 billion to R2 billion per annum required to police and administer the collection of the GFIP funding through e-tolls, knowing that this could have been administered for "free" through the fuel levy. The "user pays" argument is now being touted as a farce and South Africans prefer the view that "all our roads belong to all of us".
Capetonians have no problem if their fuel levies contribute to the upgrade of Gauteng's freeways, as do Gauteng residents have no problem with the urban highways in and around other cities being upgraded and maintained through the common national Fuel Levy. For the mere charge of another R0.12c / litre to finance the GFIP (and R0.30c / litre to include the other major cities Freeway Improvements) it is a no-brainer.
The horse has not yet bolted on e-tolling, and while it may get out the starting gates in the new year (February will be a stretch), my guess is that it may not get around the track and collapse from the exhaustive inefficiencies that it has ill-considered. The frustration levels are rising.