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By Marizka Coetzer


Government listened to public over e-tolls – Chikunga

Sanral's chief executive said the policymakers will still have to decide what to do with debt that was older than the current debt.

The South African National Roads Agency’s (Sanral) e-tolls billing system will officially be scrapped at midnight tonight – but not your debt, owed for using the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) roads.

But according to Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, there is the consolation that the government listened to the anger of the public and its pushback against e-tolls… and is sorry.

ALSO READ: ‘No refunds’ says Lesufi – Motorists must pay outstanding e-tolls debts

Chikunga said yesterday that “after midnight, e-tolls will no longer exist”. However, motorists “who have used the roads up until it switched off on 12 April will have to pay”.

“On how, and to enforce and not to enforce, is a matter we have not discussed, and [we will] attend to it as time goes on,” she said.

‘We have heard you’

“The fact that we are here closing gantries and stopping the e-tolls, it means not only that we are saying sorry, but also that we have heard you.”

It had been a long process which started in December 2013 to upgrade parts of important national roads in Gauteng, she said.

“One of the issues we had to grapple with was how Sanral was going to repay the debt it incurred to build this infrastructure and how do we ensure the roads remain up to the standards to which our road users have now become accustomed,” she said.

Sanral chief executive Reginald Demana said the policymakers will still have to decide what to do with debt that was older than the current debt.

“As for the historic debt, beyond the current account, we will see,” he said.

“In terms of funding plans, we have been given borrowing limits of about R16.5 billion to go out in the market to supplement the cash generated from other e-toll routes.

“We have a listed bond on the JSE with a capacity of R16 billion.”

ALSO READ: E-tolls scrapped, but gantries will remain operational – Chikunga

Demana said the total e-toll debt was R43 billion already.

“I just want to make sure that we are not leaving Gauteng residents thinking they are responsible for the roads. It is just a contribution of settling the whole issue of e-tolls,” he said.

Chikunga said it had not been an easy process or decision. Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi denied promising motorists they would get refunds, saying the government would consult with a specialised team on the matter.

“The basis of the disputes on e-tolls was a lack of consultation. Therefore [on the subject of] the payment or enforcement of debt, we must subject it to consultation, so people can’t say we are taking a decision without consulting,” he said.

Lesufi said he was excited about the new era, post-e-tolls.

“The reason it was difficult was that these roads don’t belong to Gauteng, [they] belong to the national government and we were maintaining a road that was not ours,” he said.

READ MORE: E-toll debt collection from motorists still on the agenda

However, the e-toll CCTV cameras were needed to fight crime and track and locate, he said. “We have a huge interest that those cameras be connected to our command centre.

“We want the office of the kiosks of Sanral in our malls and highways and to utilise them … it’s part of the infrastructure we want to tap into.

“We don’t want the workers working at e-tolls jobs to come to an end at midnight,” he said.

Discussions on how to utilise the workers and the infrastructure will be held soon.

Political analyst Piet Croucamp said the scrapping of e-tolls was more business than politics and had nothing to do with the elections next month.

Midnight cutoff

• The Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, has announced road users will no longer be charged for the use of the Gauteng e-toll routes from midnight tonight.

• The obligation to pay e-tolls bills remains until midnight.

• Road users will not be required to do anything when e-tolling is cancelled.

• Current valid accounts can still be used for payments at toll plazas and other value-added services.

• The tag beeps will stop after midnight.

• The gantry lights and cameras will remain on for road safety purposes.

• The e-toll website will be updated to include mobility/ tag account functionality for services interoperability and parking.

• The e-toll stores will remain open, as the tag can still be used for interoperability, account queries and other potential transport-related services that will be determined in due course.

• E-toll invoices will be rolled up until the last day and issued up until this period