Government flip-flops on the future of e-tolls

The cabinet has not made an official decision on the future of e-tolls, says Transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

Addressing media on Thursday (31 October), Mbalula said that his department tabled a number of proposals regarding the controversial toll scheme, with cabinet set to debate these possibilities later in November.

He said that these proposals would form a ‘reconfigured approach’ following disagreements between the national government, the department of transport, and Gauteng government.

“We are not only looking at extending the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), (but) are also looking at the ‘scrapping’ of e-tolls,” he said.

“The preferred option will take into consideration the interest of society, the indigent and road users as well as the state of the economy.”

However, Mbalula acknowledged that the country has previous bond and debt commitments which meant that it was difficult to move away from the ‘user pays’ model.

Mixed messages

Earlier this week, finance minister Tito Mboweni said that the controversial e-toll system is here to stay.

Speaking in his medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS), Mboweni said that after considering a number of issues it was decided that government would remain committed to a ‘user-pay’ model.

However, he said that there will be a further dispensation and value-added services under the new system and that compliance will also be strengthened.

The MTBPS shows that since 2014/15, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Saral ) has incurred annual average losses of R1 billion.

“The agency is not generating sufficient cash from its toll portfolio to settle operational costs and debt redemptions falling due over the next three years,” it states.

Government has extended a total guarantee facility of R38.9 billion to the agency, of which R30.3 billion had been used by 31 March 2019.

Read: E-tolls are here to stay: Mboweni

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Government flip-flops on the future of e-tolls