No ministerial decision on e-tolling

Farzana Rasool
By Farzana Rasool, ITWeb IT in Government Editor.
Johannesburg, 01 Aug 2011

Despite setting the end of July as the deadline for a decision on the controversial Gauteng e-tolling fees, the Department of Transport (DOT) does not have an answer yet.

Tariffs initially gazetted for the system in April were suspended due to public outrage over how high they were.

Transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele subsequently set up a steering committee to host consultations on the matter. The steering committee in June recommended new tariffs that offer slight reductions on the initial fees.

It suggested a reduction from 66c/km, for light motor vehicles without e-tags, to 58c/km; and from R3.95, for heavy vehicles without e-tags, to R2.95.

No end

Deputy director of media relations at the DOT Sam Monareng says the report compiled by the steering committee based on public consultation is still with the minister.

He adds that the department does not know when the minister will be done with the report and when a final decision will be made.

Transport director-general George Mahlalela previously said the only decision to be made is around what the tariffs will be and not whether the system will go ahead or not. He said the principle of e-tolling has already been accepted.

However, Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) has contested this, arguing that the concept has not been accepted.

It also says the proposed tariff reductions are not enough. Several stakeholders said the reductions are a positive progression, but not a satisfactory end-result.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) says the tolls will impose a huge additional burden on road users, and will see the hand-over of grotesque profits to those who will benefit from this system.

Cosatu welcomes Satawu's plans for marches, demonstrations, pickets and stay-aways, and promises that it will march with the union if the tolls are not scrapped.

“We are confident that thousands of other Gauteng residents will be joining in these protests as well.”

More haste...

The e-tolling project is an open road, multilane toll infrastructure that allows tolls to be charged without drivers having to stop. There are no physical booths.

It would have been implemented on 23 June, but large-scale protests to the fees led to the system's postponement.

The DOT says it is in the interest of road users that it does not rush into hasty decisions on the e-tolling issue as this might, however well-intended, undermine the very aim of having engaged with all the stakeholders.