With only a few hours to left until the Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) takes place, motorists might get finality on whether e-tolls will be scrapped or not.
At 2pm on Thursday, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is expected to make a pronouncement on Gauteng’s e-tolls scheme.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula last month said a final decision on the future of e-tolls had not yet been taken by government.
Mbalula said at the time that Cabinet would finalise the e-tolls matter when Godongwana delivers his mid-term budget speech in November.
Now that the time has come, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has questioned whether pronouncing on e-tolls during the MTBPS is the right course of action.
“I think the only reason why we are keeping our ear on the ground with this speech is the fact that minister Mbalula said we must wait for this speech and then hopefully the minister of finance will have some clarity.
“I just don’t know if this mid-term budget policy speech is really the speech where this type of [matter] will get clarity. We all know that the February budget [speech] next year is very important,” Stefanie Fick, Outa’s executive director, told Newzroom Afrika.
Fick insisted that government should accept that the e-tolls project was unsuccessful.
“Sanral already got some money. They, year on year, do get some funding in any case from government and specifically funding for the GFIP [Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project]. So again it’s a question of e-tolls [as] there is 50% compliant rate.
“If you can say that system with a 51% compliance rate is a success or is ongoing [then] I think you are lying to yourself. So it is just a question of confirming the fact that e-tolls is not working and they should use the gantries that we all see for something else,” she said.
“What I know is that there is an agreement… it’s a user-pay principle. The e-toll is a matter that is being dealt with by the minister [of transport] and the affected province, in particular Gauteng.
“Up until they complete their work on this [issue] I am able to to actually tell what is the future, but the user-pay principle is supported unequivocally by the government and the commitment to pay that when incurred,” the minister said.
Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma called on the government to “bite the bullet” and make a decision on e-tolls.
Meanwhile, Gauteng MEC for roads infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo reiterated that the official position of the provincial government on e-tolls remains that they must be scrapped.