OUTA has heard of the initial feedback presented by Premier Makhura at today’s presentation on the recommendations provided by the e-toll advisory panel. While we will require a little more time to digest the full content of the extensive report, we are able to offer the following comment from feedback digested thus far.
At the outset, we must commend the panel for the extent taken to receive substantive input from all sectors of society and for compiling a comprehensive report that appears to cover a vast quantity of information. OUTA and the many critics of the system feel vindicated in the comments made by the Premier, wherein he states that “in its current form, the e-Toll system is unaffordable and inequitable and places a disproportionate burden on low and middle income households. It is also administratively too cumbersome.”
In this regard, we raise our concerns and disappointment that the e-toll system has not been rejected in its entirety by the panel. Instead, we sense there is a view to try and keep the irrational and inefficient system in place, even if partially so, to fund the bonds of the freeway upgrade. This proposal of a reduced or partial funding of the debt through the use of e-tolls merely exacerbates the problem, by pushing up the collection costs as a percentage of the revenue generated, making the plan more irrational.
It also appears that the most efficient system available to them, that of the national fuel levy and which is currently part of Government policy, appears to have been downplayed or overlooked as a meaningful part of the solution.
Furthermore, the recent massive reductions in the fuel price have provided Government with an ideal opportunity to hold back ten cents per liter into the fuel levy, which would raise the necessary R2,2bn per annum to service the GFIP bonds.
OUTA highlights that society is fully aware they must ultimately pay for the freeway upgrades, however, to propose other costly and more complicated options in the presence of a simple efficient and highly effective alternative, makes no sense.
The Gauteng Premier’s Panel report and recommendations appear to be finding it difficult to legitimately reconcile the substantive rejection feedback provided to them, with the will of strong political forces at play and this in turn, may challenge the integrity of the e-Toll panel process.
We believe there is no real chance of changing the public’s perception and acceptance of e-tolling as proposed in these recommendations and for this reason, we suggest that trying to be ‘half pregnant’ on the issue will not work.
We are certainly aware that these recommendations and the future plan to engage with stakeholders in February, prior to a final report and recommendations being submitted to National Government, could be case of ‘testing the waters’ by the Premier and possibly even National Government. What the authorities need to do is ask whether they believe the report’s recommendations are recognizing the will of the people.
As OUTA has consistently said, the Gauteng road user will determine e-tolls future, not politicians, nor regrettably big business. In this regard, we suggest that the public continue to exercise the high levels of moral courage displayed on this issue to date.