News / South Africa / Government

Jennifer Chisom Okoye
2 minute read
2 Jul 2019
6:00 am

Are e-tolls really on the way out?

Jennifer Chisom Okoye

Gauteng Premier David Makhura challenges the ANC leadership on highway funding – and they may be listening to him.

Delegates are expected to meet Gauteng Premier David Makhura, MECs, executive mayors, ward councillors and representatives from the South African Local Government Association (Salga) for updates on the state of Gauteng municipalities. Picture: Nigel Sibanda.

There was “no turning back” on his stance that e-tolls must go, Premier David Makhura said yesterday – and he appears to have the ear of the national department of transport, with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula welcoming his call and promising to address the matter.

During his State of the Province address (Sopa) yesterday, the premier addressed one of the most divisive issues in Gauteng and said his administration was prepared to “contribute something as the provincial government, to ensure the e-tolls are scrapped. There is no turning back”.

Despite this, he said the issue was still in the hands of national government and they were still waiting for them.

“But we remain determined to ensure that e-tolls are not part of the future of our province,” Makhura vowed.

He did not elaborate on how much the province would contribute, or where the money would come from.

Makhura also announced he would be pressuring newly appointed Mbalula to act, saying he would be meeting with him after the address.

Mbalula’s spokesperson, Ayanda Allie-Paine, said the minister “shares the premier’s view that the issue of urban tolling must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

“The conversation will continue during the minister’s meeting with transport MECs from all nine provinces on Friday.”

But one of e-tolls’ biggest critics, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), said Makhura seemed to have very little influence in “ending this failed scheme”.

CEO Wayne Duvenage said action on the saga was “too long overdue”.

“We need to hear the premier place government under more pressure in this regard. His call is just a repeat from the past few years, yet the scheme limps on.”

He questioned where the money to contribute towards the scrapping of e-tolls would come from.

“The authorities abandoned their litigation approach after a temporary board decision by Sanral in March to suspend the process of pursuing e-toll debt. This announcement saw a further drop in e-toll compliance. Every day the authorities take in delaying the decision leads to mounting interest costs related to the freeway upgrade bonds.”

Political analyst Lesiba Teffo said there was a “healthy rapport” between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Makhura.

He believes the premier’s announcement may have been informed by positive noises from those in higher office.

“Makhura would not have made such a bold statement if it had not been previously discussed between him and national government, with the advantage that there would be a possible and amicable solution as soon as possible because it has cost both national and provincial governments a lot,” Teffo said.

“So it’s about both national and provincial governments seeing how they can help each other. I have no doubt Makhura has the political will to fight this struggle.”

jenniffero@citizen.co.za

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