The Gauteng e-tolling controversy offers President Jacob Zuma the opportunity to show government officials what he means by consultation, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said on Tuesday.
Zuma told residents of Soshanguve during a sitting of the National Council of Provinces on Friday that South Africans wanted to be engaged continuously and had strong views about how they wanted to be governed.
“South Africans, especially those who fought hard to be free, want to be engaged continuously and have strong views about how they should be governed… If done correctly and continuously, engagement at all levels would eliminate the reasons for protests as people would have more avenues to speak to government directly,” Zuma said.
“[While] we agree whole heartedly with these statements, we are left deflated when it comes to action displayed by the authorities in this regard,” Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said.
“This is clearly the situation with regard to the e-tolling debacle, where the public engagement process was extremely dismal and even at this late stage, when it is not too late to halt this highly rejected and ill-conceived plan, the authorities continue to ignore the views of the people on this matter.”
Duvenage said the Gauteng e-tolling issue offered Zuma the opportunity to show government officials what he meant in practice.
“Had meaningful public participation on e-tolling been undertaken in 2007, the authorities would have learned then of the difficulties they now face, all of which has given rise to the rejection of the e-toll scheme,” said Duvenage.
“This would not have meant a cancellation of the freeway upgrade, but instead, a meaningful engagement process by Sanral (SA National Roads Agency Ltd) at the time could very well have provided an acceptable, more efficient and most amenable solution for society to pay for the infrastructural requirements.”
He said it would have enabled society to understand and accept the work to be done, explore alternatives, scrutinise the contracts to be issued and to hold the state accountable for the estimates and quoted costs incurred.