Western Province premier Helen Zille went beyond the call of duty to ease backed up traffic outside .
The bright orange e-toll registration outlets, operated by the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral), are in shopping malls and alongside highways across Gauteng for motorists to register for discount toll fees.
Some outlets have self-help computers for those who don’t need direct help, as well as flat screen televisions sets and comfortable chairs in anticipation of the queues.
Yet, despite being staffed with between three to five cashiers and a branch supervisor, outlets had no customers on Thursday when Sapa reporter Carol Campbell visited them.
At one, a cashier was painting her nails while another was reading a magazine.
At Maponya mall in Soweto, human resources consultant Tshepo Tsotetsi was the only registration in an hour.
“I registered my wife and myself with a heavy heart. I don’t want to break the law and I use the highways all the time getting around for work,” he said.
“But I didn’t do it in good faith.”
At the same mall Bafana Mkhabela took an e-toll registration brochure.
“I use my mom’s car to get to college in Centurion and, although I don’t want to register, she thinks I should,” the third-year computer student said.
“It’s going to cost our family a lot though, because I go through four tolls just to get to college.”
At Cresta centre in Randburg, the e-toll outlet was empty, despite three cashiers waiting for customers.
Businessman Tertius Barnardt, who uses the post office next door daily said he had never seen anyone inside.
“Yesterday I took a pamphlet from a woman handing them out at a traffic light,” he said, “she was so delighted and surprised that I was even prepared to take one”.
Barnardt said he was still unsure if he would register.
“In Gauteng, we are up to our necks in fees and taxes,” he said, "and where is the money for this going to go?”
Lwando Malotana, a training consultant from Randpark Ridge, said he was hoping the whole project would be scrapped before he had to register.
“I watched what happened with the national strike in March and I have been following the debate with interest,” he said, referring to the protest against e-tolling by trade union federation Cosatu.
“I will wait and see and maybe register just before the tolls go online.”
San Ridge Square in Midrand was busy on Thursday, the parking area full, but the e-toll outlet empty.
This area would be heavily affected by the e-tolls on the N1, which links the area with Johannesburg and Pretoria. At this e-toll outlet, five staff chatted with each other to pass the time.
Stephen Maupi, a credit controller for a cellphone company, said he commuted from Randburg to his office in Midrand, and constantly moved around Gauteng visiting stores.
“In South Africa these things are proposed and then we just have to pay. I would like to know more about this Austrian company that has been involved with the e-tolls and where the money from all of this is going to go.”
Michael Mafagane, a maintenance worker commuting weekly from Pretoria to Midrand, said he welcomed the move to exempt public transport from e-tolls.
“There are a lot of cars with just one person in them driving on this highway. Maybe it’s time people started using public transport to save on e-toll fees. This is one way of cutting down the traffic on our roads.”
At Benmore shopping centre, three cashiers watched the clock until going-home time. The mall was busy but no-one was at the e-toll outlet.
Douglasdale retiree Robin James had no intention to register for the e-toll.
“If the authorities can’t get an electricity bill right, why would I give them access to my bank account for the e-toll?” he asked.
“No, we have had enough. They (Sanral) can send me a bill. If they can find me.”