E-tolls must be debated by provincial legislatures
There can be no argument against the fact that an e-toll system introduced within the confines of any urban area will have a considerable impact on road congestion, maintenance and other pertinent matters at a Provincial level. To exclude the Provinces in bills of this nature is simply outrageous. The Democratic Alliance argued in the Cape High Court on Tuesday 4th March 2014 that it was unconstitutional for legislation to be have been confined to debate only in the National Assembly.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has recently learned that the E-toll Operations Centre at Midrand was designed and built as the “largest storage array in the Southern hemisphere” capable of processing information from gantries erected all over the country covering thousands of kilometers, which is the ultimate plan for the center, if indeed SANRAL is allowed to get its way. This is all the more reason that entitles provincial legislatures to have a say on the matter.
OUTA's spokesperson John Clarke, who has been monitoring SANRAL’s ambitions in KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape for the past decade, says he now understands why Mr Alli has been lobbying so hard to also push the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road and Western Cape Winelands Tolling schemes. “Initially I found it strange that in the midst of the Gauteng e-tolling crisis Mr Alli was popping up in remote rural villages in the Eastern Cape to try and co-opt support for local communities and traditional leaders for the ambitious and wasteful R11 billion N2 Wild Coast freeway scheme. The Midrand e-toll Ops Centre is the nerve center for a much larger ambition and it would appear that SANRAL has been suffering delusions of grandeur,” says Clarke. “Consequently the e-tolling scheme in Gauteng has been fraught with risks and untested assumptions that ought to have been openly assessed with all stakeholders. SANRAL simply bulldozed ahead, with reckless disregard for the consequences.”
Apart from the KwaZulu Natal legislature’s unanimous opposition to SANRAL’s plans to extend e-tolling to that province, the City of Cape Town has already secured a High Court interdict to halt SANRAL’s plans to introduce e-tolling of the N2 and N1 routes into Cape Town. OUTA believes that had the KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape legislatures democratically debated the so called ‘e-toll bill’, it could very well have been halted by provincial party structures.
“There is far more at stake than the fortunes of political parties and the counting of votes. Democracy is about the casting of votes and the creation of opportunities for participatory democracy to take root. SANRAL undermined the democratic values of the constitution when they failed to conduct a public participation process before the Gauteng freeways were declared as toll roads in 2007/8. To bypass provincial legislatures is to show similar contempt for the public interest and the constitutional rights of South African citizens,” says Clarke.
OUTA understands that Mr Alli is the keynote speaker at meeting of “Progressive Professionals Forum” in Durban on Thursday 6th March at the Royal Hotel. The topic for discussion is ‘How can South Africa meet the challenge of funding infrastructure and the disparate demands made on the fiscus.’ Obviously Mr Alli will prop up his belief that e-tolling is the way to go, but he does so with scant regard to the numerous e-tolling systems around the world that have failed as a result of not garnering the overwhelming support of the public and which rely on poor administration systems fraught with incorrect data. The subject of the topic would be more apt if it was ‘How can we fleece South African tax-payers further to pick up the bill for SANRAL’s overweening Imperialist ambitions?” said Clarke.