THE END OF E-TOLLS: A BROKEN PROMISE TO SOUTH AFRICAN MOTORISTS
A year ago, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana promised an end to e-tolls, but motorists in Gauteng are still receiving invoices for this unjust system. A Treasury official recently told the media that the issue will hopefully be sorted in time for the 2024 Budget Speech in February. Here’s a reminder of OUTA’s stance on e-tolls.
To say that we are dismayed at the government’s failure to implement its own decision and deliver on the decision to scrap e-tolls, which it stated to millions of Gauteng road users, is putting it mildly.
Deputy DG Dr. Mampho Modise shed some light on the hold up during a Q and A session on the MTBPS 2023 on 1 November. He admitted that Treasury, the Gauteng Province and SANRAL can’t reach agreement on various key points. Ownership of the road network (will it belong to Gauteng or SANRAL?), the responsibility to maintain it, a possible reimbursement to those who paid toll fees, whether non-payers will be prosecuted and Gauteng’s refusal to pay 30% of the costs to Treasury were cited as issues still being discussed.
For your convenience, we summarised the current debacle and what was promised (or paid) by who as follows:
On 23 October 2022, in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTPBS) Minister Enoch Godongwana announced government’s alternative funding mechanism to address the financing of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) debt, which involved state-allocated funds. This announcement sparked hope among those who have endured the frustration of the e-tolling system for over a decade. Shortly thereafter, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi confirmed that the e-toll scheme would be deactivated by 31 December 2022, and even mentioned the possibility of refunding a substantial sum of R6.8 billion to those who had previously paid.
MTBPS 2022 provided an additional R27.476 billion for Sanral: R3.740 billion through the Adjustments Appropriation Act 2022 specifically for the GFIP and R23.736 billion through the Special Appropriation Act 2022 for Sanral’s debt redemption fund. In November 2022, OUTA made a formal submission to the Standing and Select Committees on Appropriations on the MTBPS money bills and the Sanral transfers (see here) and also a verbal presentation to the committees. We asked for an explanation of Sanral’s debt, the GFIP debt and what was being paid off. Parliament passed those bills but we have yet to receive an explanation.
In February 2023, Budget 2023 included another R2.2 billon for the GFIP and the Transport vote referred to the R23.736 billion received through the MTBPS towards the Sanral debt as “a partial solution” to the GFIP debt, with no clear explanation of that debt.
As we stand in October 2023, not a single step has been taken to implement the decision to scrap e-tolls. The burning questions are: What will it take for the government to honour its own commitment? What has Sanral done with the additional funds it received towards paying off the GFIP debt?
Sanral’s Integrated Report for 2022/23 notes that the Gauteng government will contribute 30% of the outstanding GFIP debt and national government the remaining 70% (it refers to GFIP debt rather than Sanral debt) and that the R23.736 billion in the Special Appropriation Act 2022 was national government’s “first contribution” to its 70% share.
This issue transcends the debate between national and provincial government responsibilities; it is about the irrationality and injustice of a scheme that has burdened Gauteng motorists for far too long. The irrational e-toll system has placed an unfair financial strain on citizens, and yet the government has either failed or refused to terminate it, despite making a clear decision to do so a year ago.
One cannot overlook the administrative costs incurred by the government in extending the e-toll collection contract over the last year (see here and here) and sending bills to thousands of motorists for a system that was ended a year ago. These costs represent wasteful expenditure and further underscore the impracticality of e-tolls.
“The continued delay in ending the e-tolls system is a betrayal of the trust that citizens have placed in their government. We have patiently awaited relief from this irrational system, and the government’s inaction is causing needless stress to South African motorists. OUTA calls upon the government to act immediately on its commitment to end e-tolls and deliver the relief it promised,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA CEO.
OUTA remains unwavering in its commitment to advocate for the rights and interests of South Africans, and we will persistently hold the government accountable for its promises. We will also keep you posted on any future developments.
Read more on OUTA’s e-toll campaign here.