Biological testing proved that the white powder found at Sanral’s operations centre in Pretoria on Tuesday was not anthrax, the Electronic Toll Collection said.
Thirty-seven people were decontaminated and hospitalised as a precautionary measure, ETC CEO Jamie Surkont said in a statement on Tuesday night.
The Tshwane hazardous material unit was called to the centre on Monday afternoon after a “suspicious envelope containing a white substance” was found on the premises. This resulted in the shutdown of electricity there and the evacuation of the building. “We treat this threat in a very serious light,” said Surkont.
Although Sanral said earlier that the evacuation had disrupted the Gauteng highway tolling system, Surkont said it remained operational and that there had been insignificant service interruptions at the call centre. He said full services would be reinstated as soon as possible.
But Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) said in a statement that it was “somewhat surprised” that the incident managed to bring Sanral’s “much boasted, ‘technological masterpiece’ of e-tolling to a grinding halt, due to the power supply at their nerve centre having been shut down”.
“According to news reports, [Sanral spokesman] Vusi Mona was quoted as saying that ‘the e-toll system will be affected, since no one is able to man the system, as all staff have been evacuated’.
“This suggests two things: that the e-tolls system we had been led to believe was highly automated and infallible is reliant on being manned and, secondly, that Sanral has no redundancy built into the e-tolling IT system infrastructure — by having more than one system in place,” the JPSA said.
“Given the enormous cost of installing and implementing such a system, one would have thought that fundamental corporate IT best practices would have been employed and that Sanral and its tender winners would not have placed all of their eggs in one basket.
“If this is indeed the case, which apparently it is, then government should order an immediate investigation into the competence of both, those who drafted and awarded the tenders and those who simply forged ahead and installed such a technologically vulnerable system, for which the public is expected to pay both arms and both legs for,” JPSA said. — Sapa and TechCentral