Activist groups slam celebrity e-tolls campaign

Carin Smith

Johannesburg – Activist groups on Monday lambasted Sanral's new advertising campaign in which the national roads agency uses celebrities to endorse the controversial e-tolls system.

The Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) accused the Gauteng Provincial Government of wasting money on the campaign, while the Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) slammed the ads as a desperate tactic by Sanral "to emboss the failed e-toll system".

JPSA expressed concern about the ownership of the advertising campaign, which it said was apparently being vested in the Gauteng Provincial Government. At the end of each of the adverts the logo of the Gauteng Provincial Government appears.

The three latest e-tolls adverts feature celebrities Tbo Touch, Minnie Dlamini and Khanyi Mbau, where they encourage motorists to pay e-tolls.

JPSA also slammed Sanral for accusing Outa as being 'obsessed' with them after Outa reacted to the latest ad campaign.

Outa said e-tolls would remain an "irrational and unjust double tax" for citizens, and "no amount of sugar coating was going to sweeten the deal or get the people to change their minds to the levels required".

"The fact that Sanral has chosen to use celebrities to try and sell a defunct policy, as if it were a toothpaste or a washing powder, makes a mockery of the message they are trying to send to the people," said Outa.

JPSA said Outa was formed as a direct consequence of Sanral’s Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) - the e-tolling project. "It, therefore, follows that Outa would indeed concentrate its efforts on that issue, so Sanral should not be in the least bit surprised when they are called out by Outa."

"With so many other urgent issues which require funding in Gauteng, it is surprising that the Gauteng Provincial Government would choose to spend money on producing and airing, as well as paying, so-called 'celebrities' to promote e-tolling instead of spending it where it is truly needed," said JPSA.

JPSA said it was disappointed by what it called the Gauteng government taking sides and being "prepared to waste even more money on trying to convince people that tolling our urban routes is 'the better way to go'".

JPSA said serious questions need to be asked as to where and when budget was approved to engage in pro e-tolling advertising. The group doubted that the advertising campaign would make any impact.

Channel24 editor Herman Eloff said if the celebrities in the videos were indeed paid to read words from a script, then their endorsement of the e-toll system was useless.

"Anyone would be willing to speak positively of anything on camera if they get paid to do so. Paid endorsements are good money for celebrities, but siding with the wrong brand can be bad for their image.”

Misleading e-toll advert

This was not the first time e-toll advertising came under the spotlight.

In July Sanral was ordered to remove a misleading e-toll advert. A consumer had lodged a complaint against a radio commercial, which stated that the government was giving consumers "a new e-toll dispensation".

According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Sanral omitted vital information which was likely to create a misleading expectation.

Sanral in turn said it did not intend to mislead the public and that the advert was aimed at communicating the message that the government has heard the people and responded with a new dispensation.

Fin24 Source