E-tolls are costing South Africa in more ways than one: Mbalula

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula says that South Africa’s controversial e-toll system has had an impact on the country’s ability to raise external capital.

Speaking at a media briefing on Friday (19 June), Mbalula said that the South African Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and other roads agencies have been adversely affected by the country’s coronavirus lockdown.

“Sanral not only suffered from loss of revenue but delays in capital projects have also had an adverse effect. Sanral’s access to capital markets is limited as a result of a downgrade earlier in the year.

“You know we are dealing with a very difficult issue in the country which is the e-tolls. That has actually affected our capacity to borrow in the bond market to favour Sanral’s position.”

He added that this had a knock-on effect on other capital projects – such as potholes and the development of the new Moloto road.

“Those who borrow money say that they don’t care whether ‘the cat is black or white’ as long as the decision is taken around e-tolls. That is what brings certainty to Sanral and its credibility to borrow over time.”

Other sources of revenue

In February, the National Treasury warned that government will have to look at other sources of finance to make up for Gauteng’s e-toll revenue collection.

In its National Budget document Treasury said that the controversial tolling system was currently a risk to South Africa’s fiscal outlook.

“Clarity on government’s position on the user-pay principle as it relates to e-tolls (is still needed),” it said.

“Declining e-toll revenue will have to be offset by other measures to repay South African National Roads Agency Limited debt. It could also affect funding for other investment projects.”

Other ‘fiscal risks’ facing South Africa as identified by Treasury include:

  • Insufficient progress on Eskom reforms and its financial position, and demands from other financially distressed state-owned companies;
  • Outcomes of the renegotiation of the existing wage agreement and the following round of wage talks;
  • The Road Accident Fund is government’s second-largest contingent liability after Eskom. A decision on the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill is required to pave the way for a more affordable system.

Read: Joburg and Cape Town car licence renewals under lockdown – here are the centres that are open

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E-tolls are costing South Africa in more ways than one: Mbalula