The reduction in toll fees will have a significant positive impact on hard pressed consumers.
Debt expert Neil Roets, CEO of Debt Rescue, one of the largest debt counselling firms in South Africa, said for commuters who used the toll roads on a daily basis, this move would bring some relief from the crushing debt load most South Africans had to cope with.
According to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa road users in Gauteng will pay up to 50% less a month in toll fees while car owners with outstanding amounts owed to Sanral will be offered a 60% discount to settle their bills.
Drivers of light motor vehicles will now pay a maximum of R225 a month, 50% less than is currently charged.
Medium-weight and heavy trucks will be charged 50% less at no more than R875 a month, while articulated trucks will pay a maximum of R2 900 a month, which is 17% less than present tariffs.
Minibus taxis and commuter buses remain exempt from paying e-tolls.
Roets said government basically had no choice in the matter because many consumers refused to pay or simply could not afford the exorbitant cost that SANRAL’s fees added to their monthly expenditure.
“The overwhelming majority of South Africans are so deep in debt that even a slight increase in the cost of essential goods and services could plunge them into a disastrous situation that would be very difficult to recover from.
“The reduction in e-toll fees is not going to significantly change the overall indebtedness of consumers but will bring some relief – until the new Eskom tariff and a potential fuel price increase in the near future will wipe out these gains.”
Roets said the most important thing for consumers to do once they get into financial trouble was to seek help from a debt counsellor in order to go under debt review.
“This process provides immediate relief by legally protecting the indebted person against predatory debt collectors while allowing them to pay off their outstanding debt in smaller instalments over a longer period of time.”
He said the fact that total consumer debt now tops R1.427-trillion (according to the latest figures released by the reserve bank) shows that consumers are having a very hard time.
“We know from figures released by the National Credit Regulator and Statistics South Africa that the majority of indebted consumers already owe 75% of their monthly pay to creditors.