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E-toll opposition needs R7m

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Just over R3 million has been raised to help the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) in its fight against the contentious e-tolling system.

The alliance is going head-to-head with government in an effort to legally stop the e-toll system from being implemented. OUTA has so far managed to get an interdict against e-tolling so that it cannot be rolled out until the court case is over.

The alliance has appealed to the public to assist it through donations since it needs funds to keep its legal efforts going.

It says by now citizens have saved on e-toll fees that would have been charged had the interdict not been granted and had the system gone ahead as planned at the end of April.

“Just half of one month's saved toll fees from 30 000 motorists will get us there. Just R10 000 from 750 businesses will get us there.”

It currently has R3.12 million and it has a required target of R10.8 million. The actual cost of applying for the interdict at the high court was R3.9 million. The estimated cost of the appeal at the Constitutional Court, which will happen this week, is R3.3 million, and the estimated cost of the review at the high court is R3.3 million.

Sanral funds

Last month, finance minister Pravin Gordhan applied to the Constitutional Court to set aside the court order that stopped the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) from collecting toll fees until the outcome of a judicial review. In its reply, OUTA said Sanral is still not ready to run the project.

Gordhan said the delay in the implementation of e-tolls is hurting Sanral and SA's economy financially.

Transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele in his budget speech at the National Council of Provinces last week said the department has allocated R9.7 billion for Sanral.

This is in addition to the R5.75 billion that Treasury already committed towards the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project earlier this year.

Insufficient fiscus

“One of the crucial elements of a functional economy is an efficient public transport system. We continue to make strides in ensuring that all South Africans have access to efficient, reliable and safe public transport. We have therefore allocated R9.3 billion for this very important function.”

One of the main arguments against e-tolling has been that there is no viable public transport alternative available. Ndebele added that the big question confronting the country is how to fund road infrastructure projects.

“We have a backlog of R139 billion for roads and, unless we find other alternative funding sources, we will not be able to reverse this backlog as the fiscus alone will not be able to fund these much-needed road networks.

“It is important that we acknowledge the importance of alternative funding sources, including the user-pay principle, if we are to successfully address the historical backlog we face as a country. Building and maintaining infrastructure using future revenue streams is a funding tool used all over the world.”

The minister also said if government is to achieve balanced development in SA, it would be incorrect for it to over-invest in one province at the expense of the rest of the country.

Helping alliances

He quoted the current ANC policy discussion documents as saying that it is going to be difficult to finance infrastructure initiatives from the fiscus only, and that infrastructure expenditure should be clearly funded through a combination of fiscal allocations, borrowing and user fees.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions, in its central executive committee meeting at the end of May, said it agreed to not exclusively focus on rejecting the user-pay principle, but will stress that the e-tolls are not necessary at all.

It will emphasise accessible, safe and affordable public transport. “We need to help our ANC alliance partner to be a strategic centre capable of marshalling government.”

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