Democratic Alliance (DA) mayoral candidate for Johannesburg, Mpho Phalatse, yesterday promised that should she win the metro, she’d switch off the electricity supply to e-toll gantries in City Power-supplied areas such as on William Nicol Drive and in Rivonia, which would effectively collapse the e-toll system in strategic nodes.
In a media briefing, Phalatse said based on non-payment by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), which is the custodian of the e-tolls system and gantries across the province, they were currently in arrears with City Power.
Except, that’s not quite how it works.
City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said it was incorrect to suggest that City Power was not collecting revenue from Sanral or the e-toll gantries, and that the account was up to date.
“In total, Sanral has 25 accounts for its different installations with City Power, billed through the City of Joburg, and to date R42 million in arrears have been collected from Sanral over time,” Mangena said.
“So far only 4 accounts are outstanding out of 25 accounts totalling R3.4 million. Those 4 accounts, which don’t go beyond 3 months, are being queried for resolution as we speak.”
“Shameful” and “misinformed”
Phalatse said it was unfair for local governments to bail out national government at the expense of service delivery and the non-payment by Sanral short changes City Power with much needed revenue to fix ageing and broken down infrastructure.
“With less revenue, it is the residents of Johannesburg who suffer outages that last up to weeks because City Power does not have enough funding to clear their own infrastructure backlog,” she said.
However, Gauteng Transport and Roads MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the only solution to e-tolls was for national government to make an announcement on the matter, including the transition of how the existing contract with the current e-toll operators will be handled.
“That is the most shameful thing that any person can say really, I think her statement is extremely misinformed to say the least. It shows that the DA has no clear understanding of the issues of the e-tolls and what needs to be done,” Mamabolo said.
“The rule of law also means the contract that has been entered into remains valid and binding to the parties that have entered into those agreement, and therefore to resolve e-tolls outside the legal framework and outside the process that shows that our government respects the laws that regulate and are related to the e-toll, the investors that have dealt with the issues.”
“A failure from the word go”
He also said as the provincial government, they have advocated for e-tolls to be scrapped, and that scrapping must follow similar due process, with government honouring its obligation to raise money to expand the roads and pay for new roads.
“Because as we said the current e-Toll model was a failure from the word go. But it doesn’t mean we must take barbaric shortcuts simply to try to make false promises to the people,” he added.
Also Read: E-tolls must stay, insists Mbalula
Mamabolo also said he challenges the DA to bring receipts on their claims and also challenged them to come up with a feasible plan on how they will switch off the gantries, and what method they were going to deploy to do that.
Going a little too far
Automobile Association (AA) spokesperson Layton Beard said he doesn’t think that it was one way to deal with e-tolls, as they had a specific view that the issue needed to be resolved by Cabinet, however, a way forward was extremely important at this point.
“We do not have a political position on it, we just have a position that at the moment people are not paying for e-Tolls and there’s a reason for that and we would like cabinet to give us a decision and the way forward for e-tolls,” Beard said.
Meanwhile, Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (Outa) Wayne Duvenage said although it might not be as easy as it might seem, it was still a good place to start.
“Well I like her sentiments and her views but I don’t think it’s that easy. But if Sanral has not paid their bills then she would have a right to do so,” he said.
“However, it will only be within the boundaries of Johannesburg and not in Tshwane or Ekurhuleni where these gantries are. But if she’s switching them off because she doesn’t like them, then that might be taking it a little too far.”
Meanwhile, Gauteng DA leader Solly Msimanga said the decision on e-tolls has been passed from pillar to post from Makhura, to the president, and then minister of finance, and finally the minister of transport who still hasn’t provided a conclusive solution.
Also Read: How can we believe Mbalula on e-tolls?
“What does all this mean, are we going to continue with this unwanted and unjust system and would it ever come to an end?” asked Msimanga
“Collection rate is terribly poor and Gauteng residents have refused to pay for these e-tolls and Sanral also initially embarked on a series of summons to motorists that did not pay their bills but later abandon this,” he said.