E-tolls ‘will push middle class into poverty’

The imminent implementation of e-tolling is going to have a greater than expected effect on deeply indebted consumers and is going to force many middle class South Africans back into poverty, according to Neil Roets, CEO of Debt Rescue.

Low income groups are bearing the brunt of the slowdown in the economy and with more than 25% of all workers unemployed, the extra R450 a month for commuters who use the Ben Schoeman highway daily is going to make a huge difference to their disposable income.

The biggest impact of the new tolls will be on heavy vehicles that are going to be tolled at a much higher rate, according to Roets.

In turn this is going to push up the cost of transportation of all goods moving through Gauteng.

Cars (class A2) get a slightly better deal than before, with 15% discount for further use once the monthly bill reaches R400 and a cap of R450. This is lower than the previous cap of R550 a month.

The caps for heavy vehicles remain the same, with 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.

“The writing is on the wall for many middle class families, who have only recently escaped from dire poverty,” said Roets.

“With the additional costs imposed on them directly through tolling and indirectly through the increased costs of goods travelling on the tolled roads, many will be pushed back into poverty,” Roets said.

Unemployment is currently estimated to top 25%, with a much higher percentage of young people between the ages of 18 and 35 looking for jobs.

The impact of e-tolling would be immediate and substantial, said Roets.

He wanted to know what happened to the fuel levy that all motorists have been paying for many years that was introduced specifically to build and maintain roads.

Glimmer of hope

“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.

“There is still a glimmer of hope that the courts may side with the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), who has an appeal pending against the implementation of e-tolling.”

Outa’s Wayne Duvenage said he was “surprised” by the fact that President Jacob Zuma had gone ahead and signed the bill into law given the fact that there was still an appeal pending against e-tolling.

“We were under the impression that the presidency was going to take some time to consider the questions relating to the correct tagging of the bill before signing it into law,” Duvenage said.

Duvenage said Zuma signing the bill into law meant Sanral could proceed with launching e-tolling in Gauteng.

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