Following hints and speculation of reduced eToll tariffs as a possible charm offensive tactic by SANRAL, OUTA has previously stated its expectation of such a move by the authorities. Reduced tariffs however, come with more questions and problems than solutions.
The first concern with a reduction in eToll tariffs at this stage, is why now? Where was this money going to go to in the first place? Have the collection costs suddenly been reduced or is this a case of trying to force a thinner edge of the wedge into the door of public acceptance? Sugar coating the pill now merely prolongs that pain that society will have to endure later, unless of course there will be more transfers from treasury under renegotiation of the contracts to significantly reduce the costs of collection.
“What the authorities need to realize is the public are not fooled by this tactic,” says Wayne Duvenage, the Chairperson of OUTA. “They know the rate of today is not the rate of tomorrow. They know it is the inefficiency of a system that is saddled with high costs of eToll collection which enriches foreign and local companies, all of which does not disappear through a temporary reduction in the eToll tariffs or any other enticement tactics that SANRAL will deploy in the coming months.”
What is extremely worrying are the world wide events of societal rejection and uprising against Government’s who take their citizens for granted, as is happening in Brazil, Egypt and Turkey. Our Government seems no to notice these developments and the possibility of similar incidents unfolding in South Africa. Such protests will be detrimental to investor confidence and our fragile economy, yet they simply continue to ignore their people on this important issue and other matters.
It is a great concern that the Treasury, a Government department renowned for their astuteness and drive for efficiency, can attempt to justify the enormous wasteful costs of the eToll collection system along with its inherent risks, at a time when the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg have yet roll out plans to offer road users safe and reliable public transport alternatives over the next few years. One must ask why Treasury continues to reject more equitable and efficient alternatives continue to be ignored, even at this late stage, particularly, when it is clear from their own admissions in Parliament that the fuel levy was not really considered as a funding method. In addition, recommendations from the review commission on State Owned Entities suggested that roads and other social infrastructure should not rely on user pays funding.
Ari Seirlis, CEO of QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) and an Executive on OUTA Board adds “the entire eToll process continues to exclude any tariff exemptions for the mobility impaired nor mention of an exemption” which he believes ‘is a now becoming a Human Rights issue’.
“We trust the Minister of Transport will apply his mind to the past and recent round of public submissions and that he will indeed hear the thunderous call from all sectors of society for an alternative to eTolls”, says Duvenage. There are many examples around the world where tolling fails unless it is efficient and has the support of society. More recently, the eToll debacle in Portugal (one which Sanral used as an example of) is collapsing within two years of being launched, a situation we must take heed of. South African road users are prepared to pay for the Gauteng Freeway upgrade, but they and this country’s prosperity can do so without inefficient, costly and grossly cumbersome eToll plan.