Johannesburg – A Gauteng motorist’s surprise discovery has revealed the South African National Road Agency’s (Sanral) latest ploy to recoup billions of rand owed in e-tolls.
The motorist, according to Rudie Heyneke, Organisation Outdoing Tax Abuse (Outa) transport portfolio manager, was applying for credit when it was discovered they had been blacklisted for owing R60 000 in e-toll fees.
Sanral had obtained a default judgment against this motorist, who allegedly had received a summons.
At least 25 other e-toll defaulters have also been given default judgments, but Heyneke believes this figure is probably a lot higher.
“Legally, they have the right to do this. The problem that we have is that it is not ethical, as we are in the advanced stages of a test case that is testing the lawfulness of the e-toll scheme,” said Heyneke.
Default judgments are obtained when the debtor does not respond or defend a summons.
The problem, Heyneke points out, is that debtor details are obtained from the e-Natis system, which in the past has been found to be a unreliable source of data.
Summons are often sent to wrong addresses, and debtors, says Heyneke, are unaware that they have been served with the legal document.
There have also been problems in the past where vehicles that are in other motorists names or where registration plates have been cloned.
“The state is under no obligation to inform motorists if a default judgment has been made,” said Heyneke.
Many defaulters will only discover they had a default judgment against them when they apply for credit.
This might be when they attempt to take out a home loan.
Heyneke said this could have a disastrous impact on households.
Only one in three motorists is believed to be paying their e-toll bill, but Heyneke believes this figure is not accurate and that the figure of non-compliance is far higher.
Many e-toll defaulters simply throw away their bills, but Outa has warned that motorists should not ignore summonses.
The civil rights organisation said that if motorists are issued a summons over unpaid bills they must act quickly.
It suggested motorists contact its offices for guidance. Outa also suggests that motorists should regularly check their credit ratings.
Sanral was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
The motorist who had the default judgment served against, is taking legal action to rescind the judgment.
Heyneke believes if Sanral goes ahead with a mass blitz of using summons and issuing default judgments to collect on their debts, it could have a detrimental effect on the economy of Gauteng.
“Three million people use those highways, of that, let’s say two million are not paying and are issued summons.
“And let’s say that 30% of them don’t contest this and are issued default judgments. That is 600000 people with no more credit. It would have a huge impact on the economy.
“Sanral hasn’t thought this through.”