OUTA response to Minister Nene’s budget speech
In response to Minister Nene’s budget speech statements with regard to the e-toll fiasco, the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) will write to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa requesting an urgent meeting to lodge OUTA’s concerns at the narrow and superficial way in which Government leaders are misconstruing the widespread opposition to e-tolling.
Minister Nene described the Deputy President’s approach to the GFIP financing as “carefully balanced” while reiterating the policy of a “cost recovery from users” for “sustainable road infrastructure financing”.
Two glaring contradictions present themselves:
Firstly the cost that needs to be recovered for the GFIP is estimated to be some R7billion more than it should have, because of SANRAL’s inability to detect or address the collusive tendering by a cartel of road construction companies. Before users of the over-priced roads can be expected to pay anything, they need absolute assurance that the collusive costs to be recovered are market related and fair. That is simply not the case at present and given its past record, the users have no confidence that SANRAL will do what is ethically and legally required to address this gross economic crime.
Secondly, Mr Ramaphosa has only spoken to the Gauteng Provincial Government and SANRAL. He has not spoken to OUTA, and to the best of our knowledge, has not spoken to Cosatu or other civil society stakeholders who have been critical of SANRAL on the e-tolling matter. This can hardly be considered a “balanced approach”.
OUTA also notes Minister Nene’s reference to the problems of “compliance and enforcement”. Deputy President Ramaphosa, as one of the principle architects of the Constitution, surely understands that the capacity of any government to enforce laws and implement its policies presupposes the consent from the governed, and submission to constitutionally entrenched values and principles. Besides the overwhelming majority of the road users rejection of the e-toll scheme, the ANC provincial congress has also voted overwhelmingly that e-tolling should be scrapped, and voiced strong criticism of SANRAL for having badly damaged its electoral prospects. It follows that with all other parties represented in the Gauteng legislature having also publically rejected e-tolling, there can be absolutely no doubt that e-tolling does not enjoy the necessary critical mass of public consent for legal enforcement to succeed, not even from loyal ANC supporters in Gauteng.
Moreover, given the widespread public outrage at President Zuma’s failure to comply with the Public Protector’s findings that he is personally liable for the cost recovery of massive overspending on security upgrades on his private residence, users of the GFIP are fully justified in refusing to be liable for “cost recovery” if the President does not lead by example.
In the process of highlighting the many concerns expressed by well over a million defiant motorists, Premier Makhura’s e-Toll Advisory Panel turned up even more evidence to entirely validate that protest. Unfortunately the Panel, the Premier and now Minister Nene have all failed to recognise that the problem is fundamentally about a historic failure by a State owned enterprise to comply with basic values and principles of good public administration that are clearly spelled out in Chapter 12 of the Constitution.
OUTA notes that Minister Nene was disappointed at the lack of applause in response to his announcement with respect to the GFIP financing problem. OUTA reiterates the point it has been making from the beginning. The State can at best force only a reluctant small minority to comply. No government can force the majority to cooperate. The majority will only cooperate if Public institutions are in both word and deed, transparent, accountable and sensitive to the needs of citizens, as Section 195 states. That has not been our experience with SANRAL. If Minister Nene wants applause, he should now intervene to urgently ensure the several billions of inflated cost on the GFIP is recovered from the colluding road construction cartels.
OUTA furthermore reminds the Minister that a partial bailout by reallocation of funds, will not entice the public on board, just as was the case when Minister Gordhan extended R5,7bn toward the e-toll scheme in 2012, to reduce the e-toll tariff from 40c to 30c. Nothing happenned. In fact, a lower rate makes the scheme more irrational by increasing the percentage cost of collection.
OUTA therefore repeats its call to Gauteng freeway users to remain strong in their Civil Courage against SANRAL's e-tolling scheme. We also call on Deputy President Ramphosa, Minister Nene, Minister Dipuo Peters and other prominent Government leaders, to show political courage by meeting OUTA and other critics of SANRAL, to sincerely broker a “finely balanced approach” to resolving the impasse over e-tolls.