Friday 23 March 2012
Since the proud birth of our new democracy in South Africa, we have not seen such resistance and public outcry against a decision taken by our government. The calls to oppose e-tolling of Gauteng’s Freeway Improvements (GFIP) are loud, filled with anger and a growing resentment toward this unnecessary burden. It is a sad day when a nation’s government develops a tense and threatening relationship with its people, when trying to force an unjust and unpopular decision into being, as is the case with this e-tolling project.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) was recently formed out of a necessity for business organisations and people of similar mind to coordinate their efforts and consider a legal challenge to the e-tolling matter. Our investigation has unpacked a number of issues and transgressions that highlight a disregard for protecting the interests of the public.
Challenging the actions of one’s government in court is a most unpleasant stance to take and in this case, it is our last and very necessary resort. Our application to interdict the decision to toll Gauteng’s Freeways was issued from the Pretoria High Court on Friday 23rd March 2012
Our opposition to e-tolling must not be confused with the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. We congratulate SANRAL on a job well done in the upgrading of our freeways. The benefits of time saving, reduced vehicle running expenses and improved road safety from GFIP are not being disputed, although claims of an 8 to 1 beneficial return as espoused by some requires serious challenging. We also know and accept that we, the taxpayers, will have to pay for the GFIP.
Our issue and objection however, is with the e-tolling plan as a means of generating funds to pay for the GFIP. Our court application seeks to halt the tolling of GFIP and is undertaken largely on the following grounds:-
We have heard suggestions that in the absence of tolling, the fuel price will have to increase by R1.00 per litre to fund the GFIP. We refute this figure and do so by applying simple arithmetic to show that an increase of between R0.08c and R0.11c per litre to the fuel levy will raise between R1,8 to R2bn per annum, which is more than sufficient to cover the repayment of the initial R20bn capital including the interest cost (at a rate of 9%), over 15 years.
Furthermore, it is a fallacy to suggest that our government cannot ring-fence levies and taxes for specific needs and purposes. It has done so for many years through our efficient revenue services department.
We sincerely believe the funding of our road infrastructure will be best conducted through a hybrid model which incorporates the national treasury as well as the fuel levy, vehicle license fees and long distance toll roads, the latter three being the best application of a ‘user pays’ mechanism in this regard.
Some proponents of e-tolling suggest the e-tolls will mainly affect the wealthy and will be of minimal burden to the poor. These statements are outrageous in the extreme and need to be challenged.
To imply that e-tolling is good because it creates 1200 jobs is a farce. These arguments and reasons thrown into the debate are red herrings and signify a desperate attempt to justify the e-toll project. If it is job creation one seeks, there are far better ways to create up to four times as many productive jobs from the estimated R1,5bn required for e-toll administration and operations.
It must be noted that SANRAL have been very economical and rather evasive when requested to provide detailed information related to the funding models, revenue streams, anticipated expenses, expected levels of non-compliance, application of enforcement, dispute resolution mechanisms and other pertinent questions related to e-tolling. The people and business have every right for total transparency in this regard.