Almost a year after an official decision was supposed to be announced, transport authorities still don’t have a firm answer on the future of the controversial Gauteng e-toll scheme.
Briefing parliament on a range of transport changes on Wednesday (1 September), Transport director-general Alec Moemi said that discussions around the controversial system continue to take place, focusing now on the various financial options available.
“Honestly, this matter has been dragging for some time, and now the ball has been thrown into the Treasury’s court, and they have undertaken to revert back to us,” he said.
“The minister of finance had a meeting this week to look at the matter, and it was agreed that further studies must be done, and then (a decision will be made) once we are clear where we are in terms of all the (financial) permutations that we are looking at.”
Moemi said that the department has committed to finding a workable solution that does not ‘drown the country in debt’ but is equally sensitive to the public’s issues.
“We are working on it from that point of view. As it is, though, e-tolls remains a formal government programme, they remain legislated and gazetted, and members of society need to comply with them until a decision says differently.
“Until then, the e-tolls remain on our books.”
A definitive answer – or else
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says that the government cannot continue to ignore the failed e-toll system in Gauteng and that it needs to be scrapped.
The union, which represents 1.8 million workers in South Africa, has given transport minister Fikile Mbalula until the end of September to announce that the government will scrap the system.
“In case (transport) minister Mbalula is not going to make an announcement favourable to our demands by the end of September, Cosatu in Gauteng will be left with no option but to protest on election day,” it said.
Elections are scheduled to take place on 27 October 2021 – however, court processes are currently underway to postpone the date until 2022.
“The e-toll policy has failed. Motorists are not paying even when Sanral is giving discounts,” it said. The federation called on all motorists in Gauteng to continue not paying their e-tolls accounts, protesting the system.
The trade federation also slammed the deputy minister of transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, for a weekend interview. She indicated that motorists would need to pay up their e-toll bills.
Chikunga told eNCA that the scheme was no different to the taxes levied on South Africa’s roads since the 1700s and that these taxes were necessary for road infrastructure development.
While an official announcement is still coming, Chikunga said that South Africans would need to pay for the toll scheme one way or another.