Gauteng premier sees no future for e-tolls

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Gauteng premier David Makhura delivered his last State of the Province Address yesterday. (Photo source: Gauteng Province Twitter page)
Gauteng premier David Makhura delivered his last State of the Province Address yesterday. (Photo source: Gauteng Province Twitter page)

The Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) company, which manages e-tolls in Gauteng, has called into question Gauteng premier David Makhura's statement that "urban tolling increases the cost of living".

Yesterday, Makhura delivered his last State of the Province Address at the Alberton Civic Centre in Ekurhuleni, explaining that while the user-pay principle is not in question, there is general agreement that e-tolls are unsustainable.

As a result, he said government teams are working to find a solution to the e-tolls. "What is being finalised with national government is how to settle the debt incurred during the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan, as well as how to fund new roads. There is no going back to the e-tolls."

However, ETC argues Makhura's statement appears to be based on opinion rather than fact, as no mention was made of how this conclusion was reached.

ETC has, in the past, stated e-tolls are "pro-poor" since they are reserved for wealthier South Africans who can afford to drive private motor vehicles. Public buses and taxis, meanwhile, are exempt from paying e-tolls, it says.

In a statement issued this morning, ETC says: "It is far more likely that the markedly increased price of petrol, damage caused to vehicles by poor roads, and decreased productivity from traffic congestion are to blame for the rise in the cost of living. With Gautengers spending an average of between 14 to 18 workdays a year in traffic, the cost of not having new roads, not constructing new roads far outpaces the 25c of cost for every R100 earned by road users."

Commenting on Makhura's statement that e-tolls are not working in SA, the company says the e-tolling system has worked and continues to work on a daily basis.

"The high rate of non-compliance is primarily a backlash against the government for adding more taxes while corruption was allowed to flourish, and not against the e-tolling system itself. The fact is, tolling works in South Africa and around the world and is an accepted, effective practice for funding road infrastructure.

"Government should come to grips with the real reasons behind non-compliance, instead of being the worker who forever blames his tools."

The provincial ANC and national government still do not see eye-to-eye on the controversial tolling system, introduced in December 2013, with which the majority of motorists have still failed to get on board.

Last November, Cosatu and the Gauteng branch of the ANC led a "People's March" to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, encouraging citizens to push back against the plan to resuscitate e-tolls.

E-tolls opponent, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse, also called on its supporters and the general public to participate in the march against e-tolls to send a strong message to government that the "e-toll scheme needs to be discontinued once and for all".

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