The insistence on implementing e-tolls, even under a new hybrid funding model, is yet another indication that government is not listening to the concerns of motorists in Gauteng on this issue. This is the view of the Automobile Association (AA), which was commenting on statements by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who was replying to questions in Parliament on Wednesday.
“Hundreds of individuals and organisations who gave input to the Gauteng e-Toll Advisory Panel (including the AA) clearly rejected e-tolls as a funding model for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP). To suggest that the reduced e-tolling rate is based on submissions to the Advisory Panel is misleading,” the Association says.
“Furthermore, Mr Ramaphosa indicated that the costs of the e-tolls reduced the burden on the poor and low-income earners. This is not the case. The higher administration costs associated with e-tolls will, in the short and long-term, have major implications for the poor and low-income earners. If people are forced to pay e-tolls they will cut other expenses and this will impact negatively on marginalised communities,” adds the AA.
The Association says it is concerned that after the lengthy sitting of the e-toll Advisory Panel, government is persisting with e-tolls despite overwhelming public sentiment against such a move.
“Mr Ramaphosa indicated that thousands of people are enquiring about the reduced tariffs and taking up the offer of discounts. We call on SANRAL to provide audited numbers of motorists who have bought e-tags and who have taken up the offers of discounts to support this assertion,” says the AA.
The Association reiterated its view that the new dispensation announced in May was an opportunity missed by government to deal once and for all with the unnecessarily burdensome funding model for e-tolls.
“Our view, as it has been since the outset, is that a portion of the fuel levy must be ring-fenced to fund the GFIP. We support initiatives to improve roads in all provinces but funding these improvements through e-tolls is not the answer as the unnecessary administration costs place an extra burden on motorists and the South African taxpayer.”
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has also come out strongly against the Deputy President’s response to parliamentary questions about the ‘new’ etoll dispensation saying he failed “dismally” to express the real and meaningful sentiments of the hundreds of submissions made to the e-Toll Advisory Panel.
A statement issued by OUTA says the vast majority (estimated at over 90%) of the submissions by those who attended the Gauteng e-toll stakeholders meetings, rejected the e-toll scheme and supported either direct transfers from the fiscus or the fuel levy.
Furthermore, it says, input provided during the e-Toll Panel engagement session held in Midrand on 6th February this year, saw a further reiteration of the delegates rejection of the hybrid funding model by an overwhelming majority of the people and associations who attended, including ANC in Gauteng (represented by Paul Mashatile himself).
Another crucial issue which the e-toll review panel highlighted, says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s chairperson, was the massive tender collusion and price fixing scandal which inflated the costs of the freeway upgrade by billions of Rands, “and which has yet to be addressed by the authorities.”
“Yet government’s reluctance to take a principled and ‘unpopular’ position on this matter appears to be missing. Instead, they continue to thrust an unjust, irrational and unworkable scheme onto the public, by using carrots of hollow discounts and threats of withholding vehicle licenses, to coerce the public to comply,” he says.