ANC Gauteng calls for e-toll re-think

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The new e-toll dispensation has not made much difference to improving people's lives, says ANC Gauteng chairperson, Paul Mashatile.
The new e-toll dispensation has not made much difference to improving people's lives, says ANC Gauteng chairperson, Paul Mashatile.

The electronic toll collection (e-tolling) on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project has found an unlikely opponent in the Gauteng branch of the ruling ANC party.

E-tolling on the Gauteng freeway system started on 3 December 2013, after a lengthy period of consultation.

Following their three-day provincial general council in Pretoria, which ended on Sunday, the ANC provincial leadership reportedly instructed party chairman Paul Mashatile and premier David Makhura "to do something about e-tolls".

Mashatile said the council had mandated the provincial leadership to engage with national leadership to continue looking into the negative impact of e-tolls, "including the issue of affordability".

He pointed out the new e-toll dispensation was not making much difference to improving people's lives and that whatever had been done so far had not satisfied them.

"Let our people know wherever they are that we care about them. Let them know that we listen and respond when they cry out for help. We take great pride in that the ANC government continues to grow the black middle class through our aggressive interventions to ensure equality. Let us continue to find solutions to the problems of e-tolls since our people continue to complain about affordability," Mashatile said.

Gauteng has been critical of president Jacob Zuma following the Constitutional Court finding he had violated his oath of office over the Nkandla saga.

The provincial leadership's call comes after transport minister Dipuo Peters last week said the controversial e-toll system was "here to stay" although it is facing some resistance from some motorists.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, which is opposing the e-tolling system, says its membership has grown by several thousand over the past few weeks. This is despite Sanral offering a 60% discount for Gauteng road users to settle outstanding e-toll debts.

The announcement by the ANC leadership in Gauteng also comes in the wake of local government elections set for 3 August.

"I think it is fairly obvious the ANC in Gauteng is well aware its support base is declining to the extent that there is no guarantee the ANC will retain control of the major metropoles in the province at the municipal elections in August," says ICT veteran Adrian Schofield.

He points out there are many contributing factors for this decline and the stand-off between Sanral and Gauteng highway users is a fairly visible one, but not the most significant. The challenge for the provincial leadership of the ANC is to de-link the national issues from the municipal performances, ahead of the elections, he notes.

"Recent events do nothing to show the national policies can be swayed by provincial or municipal issues. It would appear the greater the volume of criticism, the more the leadership will dig in its heels and refuse to acknowledge the need for change. In reality, the e-toll saga is not likely to cost the ANC its political majority because it is a non-issue for most people, especially when compared to more pressing issues like jobs, healthcare, housing and education," Schofield concludes.

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