While the future of e-tolls remains up in the air, government has yet again maintained its support of a user-pay principle policy.
Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday, Minister in The Presidency Mondli Gungubele said discussions on the future of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) e-tolls saga were still ongoing.
“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 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.
‘E-toll policy has failed’
Gungubele’s comments come after the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Gauteng recently threatened to protest on the day of the local government elections, scheduled for 27 October, if e-tolls were not scrapped.
Cosatu on Monday issued an ultimatum to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to make an announcement on the future of e-tolls before the end of September.
“The e-toll policy has failed, motorists are not paying even when the South African National Roads Agency is giving discounts,” said Amos Monyela, Cosatu’s Gauteng chairperson, in a statement.
The trade union federation was reacting to comments made by the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga in a recent media interview.
Chikunga told eNCA at the weekend that Gauteng motorists would have to continue paying for the controversial scheme, despite the widespread rejection of e-tolls. She also compared the e-tolls to taxes levied on motorists in the 1700s to develop the country’s road infrastructure.
“[If] you use the road that is tolled, you pay for it. If you don’t use it, you don’t pay for it. It’s as simple as that,” Chikunga said.
In July, Mbalula revealed during an interview with eNCA that a final announcement about the future of e-tolls, not only in Gauteng, but across the country, was expected later that month.
Despite Mbalula creating the expectation of an imminent decision on the future of e-tolls on many other occasions, an announcement has not yet been made.
The long-outstanding decision on the future of e-tolls dates back to July 2019 when President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Mbalula to head a task team to report back to him on available option by of that year.
The task team also included then-finance minister Tito Mboweni and Gauteng Premier David Makhura.
Mbalula subsequently said he had presented nine possible solutions to the government to resolve the e-tolls impasse, the first of which is “to scrap the e-tolls”.
Additional reporting by Moneyweb