Responding to President Jacob Zuma’s call yesterday for ‘South African’s to support government’ and ‘promote activities that enhance economic performance in every possible way’, OUTA supports the president’s request and calls on the President to lead this effort by having the Government steer clear of an unnecessary waste of billions of rands through the unrelenting pursuit by SANRAL and the Department of Transport to implement the eToll system.
OUTA’s Chairperson Wayne Duvenage comments that “the growing wave of eToll opposition across all sectors of society remains undeterred by the ongoing legislative antics of Government, whereby they push through punitive legislation to try and force the eToll plan down their citizen’s throats!”
“Despite the recent SANRAL spin doctoring” Duvenage continues “OUTA has never advocated that society is unwilling to pay for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), and other national road improvements, but it rejects the irrational and wasteful funding mechanism that is based on quicksand assumptions constructed to appease SANRAL’s principals. Furthermore, the recent reports in Parliament have highlighted the lack of proper consideration of the Fuel Levy as an alternative funding mechanism for the GFIP lies at the core of OUTA’s argument.”
OUTA takes note of the recommendations of the Presidential Review Committee (PRC) on State-Owned Entities published this week, wherein reference in the consideration of infrastructure funding is made to China, as an example where ‘Government takes full responsibility for infrastructure investment’. Indeed Recommendation 21 states that ‘funding of social infrastructure, including roads, should have less reliance on the ‘user pay principle, and more on taxes’. The PRC reports that ‘South Africa lacks a distinctive funding model for the development of economic and social infrastructure’ and that during their engagements with both National Treasury and the Department of Public Enterprises it concludes that a ‘model is still evolving with inadequate policy convergence among them’.
Duvenage also refers to the Government’s National Development Plan (NDP) and in particular Chapter Four on Economic Infrastructure wherein it cautions against ‘adopting transport approaches from other nations that are not aligned with South Africa’s priorities and resources’. He continues that “such a warning has been cast aside by SANRAL as they continue to peddle the eToll solution by quoting implementations in Oslo, London and Santiago, where substantially different levels of alternative roads and safe reliable public transport options are made available to road users.” The NDP argues that ‘instead of focusing on a particular transport mode, emphasis should be placed on the total transport network’.
In a month that see’s COSATU continue with their protest against eTolls and high level religious entities expressing their concerns and the morality of eTolls, OUTA stands ready to call on society to support government and answer the President’s call to assist them with the nation’s national road infrastructural funding challenge, on condition that Government chooses to suspend the implementation of eTolling until an efficient and sustainable funding plan is put in place, which includes a safe and reliable integrated transport solution. This problem and a looming impasse can be easily solved by government. An interim ring-fenced fuel levy can be put in place to meet the GFIP repayment costs and the gantries can be put to other productive use. By forcing the implementation of the eToll plan into being against the will of the people, will only waste more valuable time and resources and continue to drive a wedge between the Government and its Citizens. Mr. President, we will work with you. Please suspend eTolls – it’s the right thing to do.