What happens when you tweet about paying etolls

8 Jan

etoll response

This afternoon, I queued at a shopping centre in Sunninghill to pay my etolls and tweeted about it. I’d used a car that isn’t registered in my name on the highway, and my family asked me to please sort it out. If the car was mine, I might have been more sanguine about civil disobedience, but this wasn’t strictly up to me.

The response was interesting. It ranged from mockery:

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 2.00.36 PM

to threats of vandalism:

etolls bullying 3

I’ll admit that I thought twice about tweeting about standing in that queue. Then again, I was curious about the response, and since I tweet about being divorced and having bad hair, I might as well tweet about etolls too.

To admit to paying etolls is socially unacceptable in some circles. It marks you as a traitor, and certainly would have back in 2012 and 2013 when the anti-etolling campaign was at its peak.  The tide is definitely shifting though, and judging by the number of people in the queue, I’m one of many:

etoll payers

I braced myself for the bill. Since etolling started in early December, I’ve used the highway several times and been through countless gantries. So when the bill came to under R24, I was – yes – pleasantly surprised.

What’s interesting about this, and what I’ll explore in more detail, is how the debate around etolls has moved from mass civil disobedience, where Sanral was probably the greatest unifying force in the nation, to a sense of resignation. This ship has sailed, and while hardliners might threaten me (some of them really need to join the fake interpreter for a spell in Sterkfontein if they think that committing an actual crime – damage to private property – somehow enhances their case against the government) the battle has been lost. Most people will kak en betaal because the threat of further inconvenience is worse than the threat of being accused of being a veraaier. Already the tide is turning; the queues at Sanral customer service centres are evidence enough of that.

If I were Sanral, I’d be rubbing my hands in glee at the prospect of anti-etolls hardliners threatening members of the public. Nothing makes a bully more sympathetic than excessive aggression by its critics.

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