You are going to pay for e-tolls whether they are scrapped or not: minister

 ·26 Nov 2021

Finance minister Enoch Godogwana will make an announcement on the future of e-tolls in his February 2022 budget, says transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

In an address on Friday (26 November), Mbalula said that a decision on the controversial tolling scheme has been delayed due to an inability to finalise consultations between his department and Treasury, and Cabinet.

He explained that irrespective of what decision the government takes on e-tolls – including whether to scrap or keep the scheme – there would be a financial cost involved.

Mbalula pointed to recent discussions with the government’s creditors who have made it clear that e-tolls will need to paid for in some form. Whether e-tolls are kept in place or scrapped, they need to be paid for all the same, and a decision has to be taken, he said.

Heavy burden

The South African National Roads Agency’s (Sanral’s) financial results published in October 2021 show that the Covid-19 lockdown had a significant impact on toll revenue, with a budgeted loss of R570 million between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021.

Notably, Sanral said that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) showed a revenue downturn of 31.5%.

“This project is the only Sanral toll route that receives a government grant to offset the discounts on tariffs instituted in response to public opposition to tolling on Gauteng freeways,” it said.

In 2020/21, this grant amounted to more than R2.7 billion, which includes R2.3 billion that the minister of transport, as Sanral’s sole shareholder, approved as a transfer from non-toll to toll operations to reduce the expected shortfall in collection of revenue, the group said.

Sanral’s chief executive Skhumbuzo Macozoma has repeatedly called on the government to make a decision on e-tolls.

“Bite the bullet and do so. There is not going to be an answer that is not going to affect South Africans in the pocket, including cancellation.

“Cancellation, in fact, is the most expensive of the options that are on the table. So it’s a complex decision, but it must be made. It’s not assisting that we (Sanral) don’t have a decision,” he said.

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