E-tolls will force SA middle class into poverty

The implementation of e-tolling will have a greater than expected effect on deeply indebted consumers – and is going to force many middle class South Africans back into poverty.

This is according to Neil Roets, CEO of debt counseling firm, Debt Rescue, who adds that low income groups are bearing the brunt of the slowdown in the economy.

Roets says that with more than 25% of all workers unemployed, the extra R450 a month needed for commuters who use the Ben Schoeman highway daily is going to make a huge difference to disposable income.

The Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Act – known as the “e-toll bill” was published in the Government Gazette on Thursday (26 September). The bill was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma last week.

Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) head, Wayne Duvenage – along with various unions and social and political parties – have expressed surprise and concern over Zuma’s haste in signing the e-toll bill into law.

Paying the price

Roets believes the biggest impact of the new tolls will be on heavy vehicles that are going to be tolled at a much higher rate, which in turn is going to push up the cost of transportation of all goods moving through Gauteng.

As it stands, Cars (class A2) passing through e-toll gantries are currently capped R450.

The caps for heavy vehicles remain significantly higher, at a R1,750 a month maximum for Class B vehicles, and a R3,500 maximum for Class C.

“With some 20 million credit-active consumers collectively owing R1.45-trillion, the additional burden of e-tolls is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Roets said.

“The writing is on the wall for many middle class families who have only recently escaped from dire poverty. With the additional costs imposed on them directly through tolling and indirectly through the increased costs of goods traveling on the tolled roads, many will be pushed back into poverty,” he said.

According to the Debt Rescue head, with unemployment rates estimated to top 25%, and double-digit growth in consumers seeking protection from creditors, the impact of e-tolling would be immediate and substantial.

“If the presidency and members of his cabinet could hear the tales of woe and hardship that our counsellors are exposed to daily, they might rethink plans to go ahead with the e-tolling plan,” Roets said.

“I don’t think that our political leaders have any idea of exactly how tough conditions are for ordinary working people.”

Consequences

Included in the e-toll bill, Sanral has been given power to launch criminal proceedings against commuters who refuse to, or simply cannot pay toll fees.

“Those who decide against getting tagged when e-tolls come into effect in Gauteng could find themselves at the mercy of the courts, as they may face fines amounting to thousands of rand a month,” Roets said.

Howard Dembovsky, chairman of the non-profit Justice Project SA (JPSA) was quoted by MoneyWeb as saying that Sanral’s intended use of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) means people who are not tagged and never received summons could also find themselves with criminal records and fines of thousands of rand.

Outa is currently waiting on a ruling on its appeal against the implementation of e-tolling.

With the e-toll bill passed into law, Sanral can proceed with its implementation of e-tolling.

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