SANRAL is not part of the private sector but a wholly-owned arm of government. This reminder came from citizens’ rights group OUTA, whose chairman, Wayne Duvenage, said: “When it suits SANRAL for the purposes of ensuring it can collect revenue, it emphasises its government role. Advertisements for e-tolling have used the words ‘government’ and ‘SANRAL’ interchangeably,” he continued. “This is entirely accurate: SANRAL is wholly-owned by government and board members are appointed by the Minister of Transport,” he added. “But when SANRAL defends its conduct, it takes on the posture of a free market enterprise under attack,” he added.
He referred to a recent press statement in which SANRAL referred to itself as a ‘legitimate enterprise’ in an attempt to portray OUTA’s rejection of e-tolling as a rejection of free enterprise. “It is common cause that SANRAL is a legitimate enterprise – that goes without saying,” Duvenage agreed. “However it is also a 100% state-owned arm of government and its business success depends on legislation, not on free market principles,” he added. He rejected SANRAL’s references to its products and ‘customers’, and said the roads agency had neither of those things. “Step behind SANRAL’s PR doublespeak and one finds a de facto state-owned national roads monopoly using e-tolling to extract money from captive road users who have no alternative but to travel on the roads it controls,” he said.
Duvenage said OUTA viewed the privatisation of core state functions such as urban freeway infrastructure development as damaging to the economy. “The cost of using government infrastructure immediately rises by 14% if citizens are billed by a government-owned company like SANRAL instead of directly by government itself, because the ‘private company’ has to charge VAT,” he explained. “In the case of e-tolling, this VAT burden is levied on top of the exorbitant and unnecessary collection fees that make e-tolling an irrational choice to begin with,” he added.
OUTA also welcomes the announced postponement of the Transport Bill hearings and trusts that this additional time might be well used by the authorities to reconsider the eToll strategy with a view to finding a more rationaland acceptable solution. OUTA has always maintained that this current plan to eToll Gauteng’s freeways is not in the best interests of society at large. “There is a rising tide of dissent against this eToll plan and society’s resistance and rejection thereof will have large and serious inentended consequences if the ill-concieved plan is forced into being” says Duvenage.