E-Tolls: Opinion of a Common Man

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The controversy continues regarding the new tolling system that was implemented on Gauteng’s freeways with many refusing to register or support the system. I am writing this to express my point of view on the matter.

I write this as a common man as regards these matters. I am no theologian, politician, economist or philosopher and many of the complexities of this debate are far too challenging for me to comprehend, much less dissect and discuss. This need not be a disqualification on my part, however, as I am a common man writing about the things that affect common men.

The debate begins way back when the highway improvement project began. Once again, I do not know the details, but media has a way of keeping people in the know. (Fallacy of believing the news or as Switchfoot puts it, “Selling the news…”) Now, granted, the process seems to not have been thought out very well, poorly financed, badly communicated and then there is the vague issue of how the tenders were awarded in the first place. So in my opinion, wherever the fault lies, and I believe there are many, this whole process could and should have been planned and executed a lot more efficiently. Does this give us free reign to refuse to pay?

This question raises many issues. I will touch on, what is in my mind, the most relevant. Firstly, for whatever reason, we tend to approach these issues from a “us and them” perspective as relates to government. This is odd to me. We elect a government to fulfil a specific function. They are there to facilitate the requirements of a very large group of people with the complexities of effectively engaging in the economic activities that are to the benefit of society. Granted, they may not always be brilliant at it, or they may be ghastly and horrific, similar to you and me in our jobs. Sometimes we make mistakes that cost our companies money or clients or damage to its reputation. Yet we are still paid. We may be fired or passed over for promotions much like government at the next election, but the damage is done.

It becomes more complex with government though. They spend money to expand the ability of the population to be productive. If this money has already been spent, whether appropriately or inappropriately, there is only one place they can get this money from, the population that funds the progress of the society for which the government is employed in the first place. So suggesting that we do not pay is rather preposterous in this sense. The only element that can change is the method of paying. On this element, however, I am not able to comment.

I am always the first person to question pretty much everything. I firmly believe progress only happens by challenging the status quo, the current rules and restrictions. It should be done as part of our civic duty. Once all the legitimate avenues have been exhausted, however, what do we stand to do?

My answer, comply. Yes, very unpopular, but I will tell you why. We all know the verse, “Give to Caesar what is Ceasar’s…” but I believe there is much more to it than that. Andy Stanley did a series on “Twisting the Truth” where he talks about submission to authority. He says that God’s blessing lies under authority, and when we chose to remove ourselves from under that authority we also remove ourselves from His blessing. It seems the writer of Proverbs confirms this view. I am not a theologian, but I have it on good authority that when the writer of Proverbs speaks of a fool, more often than not he refers to a rebel and not a man of low intellect. A rebel is someone who chooses to go against the standing authority. Makes sense if we believe that all authority is given by God.

Let’s take some examples from the Bible, in Daniel and Joseph. What these two greats had in common is that both of them served under heathen kings who were not nice Christian folk. They never compromised their faith, but they always subdued under the authority over them. When they could not subdue, they never rebelled, they called on a higher authority. When you report to the King there is no higher authority, except God.

The next interesting point to me is that of finances. Let it be known that I am one of the folks who will reach the maximum billing amounts these tolls will charge and am heavily affected by it as my budget does not cater for this extra expenditure. Here’s the point. Who do I trust to provide for me? If I am trusting God, it’s His money, and He probably has no issue to give it to Caesar in the first place. So then what is our problem really? Is it justice or our sense of fairness? Is it rebelliousness? God is the defender of the weak.

All of this said I am not here to tell you what to do, and I am not suggesting that there is a formula or solution to these very complex questions. What I am saying is that my relationship with my Father compels me to comply, and I suggest that before we defend our flesh, we turn to the Father, and gain His opinion on the right way to act( Rom. 12:1-2: …” For this is our reasonable service”)

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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