eTolls: Is plate recognition enough?

2014-01-04 12:24

CAPE TOWN - The billing farce overtaking Sanral and e-tolling in Gauteng continues with a dead man getting a 'pay up' demand and another example of a cloned vehicle registration plate surfacing.

Cloned plates are common and it's possible to PhotoShop a matching registration disc. However, even if you know the vehicle involved is not yours and you are innocent, a court summons will eventually follow the original notice of prosecution.


Until that point you are not legally required to do anything at all; ignoring a court summons, however, is illegal and a totally separate offence - for which you can be arrested, whether or not you were guilty of the original offence.

Road-block police checks should include matching the disc data at least to the vehicle's engine number.

Given that there are so many cloned number plates on our roads and that they are so easily changed, Wheels24 asks whether in law only a photographed number plate is sufficient proof of a vehicle's identity and ownership to achieve a successful prosecution.

Remember, it is the prosecution's task to prove guilt and Wheels24 believes simply waving a coloured piece of photographic paper is NOT sufficient proof.

The same, we would argue, applies to camera speed-traps; worse, many such photographs are taken from the rear, making identification of the driver impossible.

In the recent events (reported in Beeld) a man who died in October 2012 received an sms warning that he had overdue e-toll fees of R612.21.

Louis Tyler-Scott, son of the deceased Charles Tyler-Scott, told the newspaper: "I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry when I received the sms [on December 30]. My father last registered a car two years before his death."

Tyler-Scott apparently kept his father's phone live for nostalgia's sake.


Many other people have posted their e-toll grievances on Facebook.

@Florah-M said that the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) had contacted her mother via sms to tell her she owed R380 - this despite her mother living in Limpopo and not owning a car.

Beeld also heard from another woman, Adri Fourie, who was sent an e-mail indicating that she owed R204. Fourie checked the Sanral website and found the vehicle involved was a Nissan X-Trail; Fourie's car is a VW Golf.

Fourie said she emailed Sanral to point out the error. "Sanral told me that I must prove it. I refused."

Gauteng's Saturday Star reported that the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) was compiling a dossier of such problems to send to the Public Protector.

Outa spokesman John Clarke told the newspaper: "Sanral is trying by hook and by crook - and now by 'spook' - to scare and intimidate road users who have not tagged up even though the system is failing."


Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said that people could better solve their queries by contacting the Sanral call centre, "not your newspaper". Mona then went on to repeat a remark which put SA president Jacob Zuma into international hot water...

He suggested that "anyone in doubt of our efficiency needs only to look at the national roads. This is not Malawi, to repeat what... president [Jacob Zuma] said".

The e-toll system was activated across Gauteng on December 3 2013.

Do you think just a vehicle registration plate is enough proof that you are the bad guy/guyess? Use the Readers Comments section below or email us to have your say.

  • Peter Viljoen - 2014-01-04 12:57

    Let's clone government officials' number plates and see how fun they find it...

      Mbongeni Nyathi - 2014-02-24 18:04

      Post all Government plates PLEASE!!! and FAST

  • George Anderson - 2014-01-04 13:53

    A friend of my mom had her car stolen a year and a half ago in Durban. 6 months later the insurance paid her out and the car was deregistered. It has been recovered by the insurance company a week after her been payed out. Two days ago she got a fine in the post for this same car that had been deregistered for not displaying a license disc, despite it been scrapped over a year ago. The motor license department in in a shambles

  • Pat Aldrich - 2014-01-05 14:29

    I thought there was a monthly limit of 450. Where is this then applying

  • Mopapa Tshwikiri - 2014-01-05 14:48

    I really think that over and above the burden that the unpaid e-tolls court appearances will put on the justice system (if it will really be settled in court as we are threatened), cloned number plates presentations which will be brought forward to the court, leading to a lot of cases being thrown out of court, wasting the court's time and the tax payer's money which should have been used better to create better roads opposed to bringing in a project that aims to rob more money from those individuals who pay their taxes. Government biting the hand that's feeding them. My cousin is getting a lot of speeding fines for a pictured pick-up yet his car is a sedan. I sympathize those who have cloned plates on similar model and colored vehicles. Long story short, no! number plate recognition is not enough!

  • Louis Claes - 2014-01-05 19:29

    I recently received a fine by mail for my trailer travelling on its own at 89kph in a 60kph zone

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