Those opposing the evidently failing e-toll system in Gauteng have their eyes set on a new target – long-distance tolling along South Africa’s three major routes.
They are asking why the toll charges increase annually – despite the fact that the construction costs of the roads were paid off years ago.
In a quest for transparency, organisations against e-tolls have demanded the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) release records of all monetary gains from tolling these routes, which they say must be made public knowledge.
This includes where the cash goes and what it’s being used for. Should this information not be released, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says it is willing to go as far as the courts in forcing Sanral to release the information.
The Citizen reported earlier that Sanral has admitted it is experiencing funding woes for further infrastructure developments, with not enough money coming in for the building of new roads to strengthen South Africa’s economy.
Indications are that Sanral has almost reached the end of the road with e-tolling, which is used to pay for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
All they want to do is to have enough money to build and maintain roads, according to Sanral, and only 30% to 35% of motorists are paying their e-toll bills.
“That glass at the moment is three-quarters full and there are 50 other demands that are maybe more crucial for government,” according to Sanral’s GFIP project manager Alex van Niekerk.
Sanral therefore requires clear direction in funding policies from government, he said, to which Sanral’s chief financial officer, Inge Mulder agreed, and pointed to it being crucial.
The entity would even accept a fuel levy to pay for roads, which they had always vigorously opposed before.
Reacting to the news, Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage said more answers were needed with regards to long-distance tolling at the Bakwena N1/N4 toll from Gauteng to the north and west of the country, the N3 highway toll to KwaZulu-Natal and the N4 toll road from Pretoria to Maputo.
“We want to know how much money they are making from these tolls,” he said.
He charged that companies operating these routes were “getting rich on taxpayers’ money”.
Pointing to the N3 Marianhill Toll Plaza, Duvenage drew on the apartheid government’s promise to stop tolling once the roads had been paid for.
“Then Sanral came into being, and changed that policy. And the plaza continues to be there.”
Once infrastructure was paid off, toll fees should be lowered for road maintenance, rather than being increased, Duvenage said.
“Who is making the money? We need a full investigation into toll concession in the country. There are connected people making a lot of money.”
He said Outa had requested information from Sanral, but was unsuccessful.
“Outa has looked into this and asked for all information. Now we need to acquire court interdicts to get it. Sanral, tell us why you don’t want to make this public info available?”
Justice Project SA chairperson Howard Dembovsky said motorists had been paying tens of billions of rands each year towards the fuel levy for decades. – email@example.com