Ndebele undermining Parliament by pushing through backdoor e-tag regulations
Ian Ollis, DA Spokesperson on Labour
4 April 2012
Minister of Transport S’bu Ndebele is attempting to force motorists to purchase e-tags through proposals made in the National Roads Act Regulations submitted and gazetted last week.
The proposed regulations will give the CEO of the South African National Road Agency (SANRAL) the right to appoint peace officers who will, among other things, be allowed to:
• Demand from any person to immediately produce their licence or any other document authorising that person to operate a car, and to produce any other document or tag;
• impound any licence, document or tag which, in his/her opinion, may afford evidence of a contravention or evasion of any provision of the Act;
• require any person, whether or not such person is in any vehicle, to furnish his or her name and address and provide any other particulars required as to his/her identification;
• require the driver of any vehicle to stop such vehicle;
• at any time enter any motor vehicle and inspect such vehicle and any electronic device installed therein for the purpose of toll collection; and
• question the driver of a vehicle as to whether required tolls have been paid.
These regulations could have serious repercussions.
Firstly, there are constitutional implications to consider as the Minister is allocating powers to what in practice amounts to a new kind of traffic police.
Secondly, there are certainly financial implications which must be taken into account. New posts will have to be created as a result of these regulations. If these new positions were not budgeted for, it could impact negatively on SANRAL’s already precarious financial situation.
Thirdly, the regulations create a regulatory system which will put immense pressure on motorists to buy e-tags.
Yesterday, SANRAL issued a statement claiming “it is not compulsory for road users to buy an e-tag for Gauteng e-tolling” and that “registering with an e-tag is optional”. This statement is neither here nor there. The proposed regulations give SANRAL the power to appoint their own private army of “peace officers” to police toll compliance. As such, it does force consumers to purchase e-tags.
The Minister must have realised that the proposed regulations are not completely above board.
The Minister requested that comment on the draft regulations be given within 20 days of its publication in the gazette. This offers very little time for the proposals to be properly circulated and discussed.
In addition, the Minister seems to be trying to undermine Parliament by putting forward a period for comment during a time when neither Parliament nor the Provincial Legislature are in session. Both institutions will only reconvene after the opportunity for comment on the regulations has expired.
The Minister also cleverly published the regulations over the Easter holidays, when most people are on leave.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be referring the Minister’s gazetted regulations to the Speaker of Parliament, Max Sisulu, requesting that they be sent to the Interim Joint Committee on Delegated Legislation as a matter of urgency.
The Minister cannot be allowed to emasculate Parliament by slipping through backdoor regulations, which could have serious financial and constitutional consequences, for the sole purpose of forcing e-tags on South African consumers.
It has never been set in stone that it is compulsory for motorists to have e-tags. If this is what the Minister is proposing, he should have followed the appropriate procedural channels and provided sufficient time for his regulations to be circulated, discussed and commented upon.