At the end of July, the African National Congress (ANC) confirmed that it was actively taking steps to review the controversial e-toll system.
Newly elected deputy chairperson of the ANC in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, said that following recent conference talks the Gauteng ANC planned to publish a formal stance on the termination of e-tolls sometime in August 2018.
However, in his interview with Talk Radio 702’s Karima Brown, Lesufi avoided the question of how Gauteng’s roads will be funded and maintained going forward, instead stating that the province first needs to ‘let go’ of the current system.
This has lead to a number of parties claiming that the announcement to scrap e-tolls was instead electioneering – with the ANC using the controversial tolling system as a means of swaying sentiment in their favour ahead of the 2019 national elections.
This issue was compounded by Gauteng premier David Makhura, who unsuccessfully tried to explain to the provincial legislature on Monday (6 August) when the controversial system would be scrapped.
According to TimesLive, DA provincial leader John Moody asked Makhura when the gantries on Gauteng highways will be switched off and if those who have paid their e-toll bills will be refunded.
In his reply, Makhura said the matter is with national government and the ANC in the province would continue its campaigns for the scrapping of e-tolling.
“The e-toll matter has now been referred to national government. The president was there when we made call that e-tolls in this province must be scrapped. We made that point at the ANC conference. We did not say the e-tolls are scrapped. The issue of e-tolls is at national government, which is now responsible for this matter,” he said.
Makhura said that the ANC will lead marches and campaigns against the ANC-led government on the issue.
“We as the ANC are going lead a campaign (against e-tolls). There is no contradiction between the ANC taking up national government. There is no contradiction in that. We have been doing that all the time, I will lead the march to the Union Buildings.
“It will not be the first march to the Union Buildings. We are going to continue to lead in ensuring that the e-tolls become a matter of yesterday,” Makhura said.
While e-tolls are yet to officially be ‘scrapped’, their failure as a revenue collection method and unpopular status means that government is already taking steps to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.
At the end of 2017, the South African National Roads Agency Limited and National Roads Amendment Bill was proposed – ‘aimed at amending previous road Acts to address the public outcry which arose as a result of the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project’.
The bill, which is currently being considered by the National Assembly, wants to place further checks and balances on the declaration of a toll road and ensure that the general public is not further financially burdened by making an alternative and affordable route available.
“Because the manner in which the public consultation process was conducted on this project was not to the satisfaction of the public, there is a need to strengthen consultation with the Premier of a province and the municipal Council wherein the road to be tolled lies, by requiring a majority vote in favour of the proposed declaration in the relevant provincial legislature,” the drafters of the bill said.
When a new toll is proposed in a province, the premier must give 30 days for objections after the consultation process. They must also call for a referendum if objections break the threshold of 55% and above.
How this proposed legislation will fit in with other e-toll plans, as well as any possible e-toll alternatives, remains to be seen.