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DA: E-tolls won’t work because Aarto is failing

Ninety percent of Gauteng's road users owe government over R2-billion in unpaid fines in just a two-year period due to end in December 2013, and the Democratic Alliance (DA) says the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act has failed to ensure that municipal authorities adjudicate and collect fines.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the DA – which is against e-tolling – revealed details of a report from Parliament's working group on the Aarto Act that shows that between 2011 and 2013 over 89% of required payments remained unpaid by road users.

The Act has been piloted in Gauteng since 2008. Aarto was passed by Parliament in 1998 to regulate the execution of warrants.

"Current indications are that, due to the lack of practical knowledge of the implementation process, it is evident that the role players do not have a full insight into the practical implementation and are short-sightedly looking at hardware issues only," Ian Ollis, the DA's spokesperson for transport, said quoting the report.

The DA claimed that no courtesy letters and enforcement orders are sent out and/or granted. Added to that, failure by the infringer to respond in time must have consequences, which were not imposed because of budgetary constraints.

'Completely inadequate'
Another reason was the fact that motorists chose not to pay, and using the eNatis database was not adequate to track down infringers. eNatis is a state-of-the-art technology, started in 2007, that allows transactions over the internet and via automated teller machines for motorists. The system also allows for the introduction of the administrative adjudication of road traffic offences system and online registration of vehicles by financial institutions.

"The eNatis database is completely inadequate because it is incorrect, it cannot track down any motorist, and this is the backbone of Sanral's plan in implementing e-tolling," argued Ollis.

Part of Sanral's communication strategy, which has a provisional budget of half a billion, is using a methodology that the two metros suspended in 2012. 

"The sending out of courtesy letters for payment no longer happens because it was ineffective and costs over R30-million a year. Sanral is tabling the same method which has shown that means to collect and enforce fines in Gauteng are non-existent," argued Mmusi Maimane, the DA's candidate for premier of Gauteng.

The status report for the Aarto Act as of last month indicates that Johannesburg and Tshwane are not ready for implementation due to budget constraints. The DA has moved for a repeal of the Aarto Act in Parliament, should it win Gauteng.

"We need to spend money on road maintenance, upgrading alternative routes to the toll roads and make funding available for the rollout of 24-hour traffic police on our freeways to improve road safety," said Ollis.

The Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa earlier in the year released a statement to argue that Aarto proved to be unworkable, and has not yielded any positive results in driver behaviour or road safety.

Maimane said the collapse of Aarto is probably a good thing in the fight against e-tolling. "The principle is that the cost of living in Gauteng is too high, adding on these costs that people are already struggling with would be a crime."

The report has recommend that the Act cannot be rolled out nationally until it is financially sustainable.

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Khuthala Nandipha
Khuthala Nandipha is a journalist for the Mail & Guardian. This involves writing about various social issues that develop and change on an hourly basis. Her interests are, in a nutshell, how South Africa and the world’s revolution affect the person on the street: “the forgotten voting citizens”, as she calls them. She loves writing, and taking photos as a way to complement her stories. She grew up on the south-east coast of East London in the Eastern Cape. She studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She is not new to Jo’burg, having spent the first eight years of her journalism career working for various newspapers and magazines there.

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