Howard Dembovsky
3 minute read
10 Nov 2014
10:41 am

E-tolls: ‘Sanral talks and we must listen’

Howard Dembovsky

So last week saw the department of transport and Sanral “engaging” the Gauteng e-tolls committee, after previously dissing the entire process and labelling it as nothing but an impotent farce.

Howard Dembovsky, National Chairman of the non-profit Justice Project South Africa. Picture: Supplied

There were several highlights early on in the process, but for me the two things that stood out most poignantly were when the minister of transport threatened to “withdraw from the process” because a legal expert on the panel wanted to “take on” Sanral CEO Nazir Alli, then the minister, then the acting director-general for transport and then the spokesperson for the department of transport.

Nazir Alli then came up with different figures for a fuel levy.

Why were they my favourites? Well, because they acutely highlighted the high-handed attitude and misleading stance that have been adopted by the authorities since before e-tolls came into being. Instead of “dispelling the misinformation spread by e-tolls detractors” as was stated as being the intent of them talking to the panel – on Sanral’s turf – they managed to take it to a whole new level in demonstrating their arrogance and readiness to spread misinformation.

Seemingly, their version of “engagement” is where they talk and everyone else just has to listen. Whether this works or not remains to be seen.

The fuel levy issue was the most conflated. Both the minister and director-general referred to an additional fuel levy of R3.65/l; on Tuesday last week the department’s spokesperson tried to counter it by saying it was a total, not an additional amount. He said the additional amount would be R1.55/l and the minister “had been misquoted”.

Well, I watched and heard the director-general, Mawethu Vilana, tell Chantal Rutter an additional levy of R3.17/l or R3.65/l would be required when he spoke about this on ANN7 on Monday night. Apparently, so did Nazir Alli, because on Tuesday he told the panel an additional R3.69/l would be required and “Sanral would be happy to get that”. It seems the players didn’t get together and compare figures and, as a result, ended up contradicting one another.

An additional R3.69/l on the fuel price, regardless of what the current price is, would generate an additional R85 billion a year based on 2013 fuel volume sales. This would quickly address the current backlog on maintenance and road building countrywide that’s constantly bemoaned.

It has little to do with the current Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), which JPSA calculated would require an extra 14c per litre to be added to the fuel price to settle the R22 billion debt and maintain the GFIP.

The e-toll review panel is looking at the socioeconomic impact of e-tolling and is acutely focused on the current GFIP. Along comes the department of transport and Sanral and tries to use the panel to address all road infrastructure issues throughout South Africa and put the fear of God into citizens by quoting a fuel/roads levy calculated to address that. Therefore, who exactly is it that is peddling “misinformation and lies”?

Dembovsky is the national chairman of the nonprofit Justice Project SA. The organisation is primarily involved in the prevention and addressing of corruption and power abuse in law enforcement as well as in the education of the public in a wide range of road safety issues. 

The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Citizen or its editors.

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