Anti-tolling group OUTA has noted with suspicion the press statement of 21 August, wherein SANRAL’s spokesperson, Mr Vusi Mona, attacks the Democratic Alliance use of eTolls for political gain. Mona is reported to have said the following: “The DA is using e-tolling as an electioneering strategy and is continuously misrepresenting the facts to win votes in next year’s elections and Sanral is not going to entertain politics.”
OUTA Chairman, Wayne Duvenage, says that statements of this nature are seriously worrying as they start to blur the line of separation between party and state. “SANRAL is an organ of state,” he said. “Its job is to provide services to citizens irrespective of their political affiliation,” he added. “By making statements on the political activities of a political party, Sanral is drawing an organ of state into the political arena and thereby undermining our democracy.”
Duvenage said that all political parties were free to comment on the actions of state-owned enterprises, be it eTolls, arms procurement, energy generation, state expenditure on private properties etc. This is the space of political and civil action entities that forms part of healthy democratic discourse. “If the DA, Agang, UDM or other political entities are able to convince voters that they would be able direct SANRAL or other SOE’s in a manner more beneficial to the country’s citizens that the current ruling party,they are quite entitled to do so,” he said. “Likewise, the ANC or any other political party is free to argue a similar points. What is not acceptable is for state-run organs themselves to become politically aligned. They should answer the queries and give facts but never enter the space of political mudslinging.”
Mr Mona then ends his attack on the DA with the following confusing comment “We understand the politicking but we aren’t interested in it.” Why then attack the DA’s politicking behavior if indeed they understand it and are not interested in it?
OUTA expresses serious concern at SANRAL’s statements and regular misrepresentation of facts, which has become a liability for this State Owned Entity. Duvenage says “SANRAL’s attempts as an SOE to enter the political fray is just another milestone in a series of PR mishaps which includes the following recent dubious and misleading statements:-
- On 31 July, Mr Mona stated that the number of toll gantries required at eTag rates to reach the [R450] cap was around 301 or roughly 2760 kms on the eToll roads, whereas this figure is closer to almost half that number at 164 gantries and 1600km.
- In June 2013, Mr Mona denied that money from the GFIP e-tolling project would directly fund and benefit Austria’s KapschTraffiCom, whereas that company’s own press release to the international investor community confirmed this was the case, to the tune of over R670m per annum.
- Again, in June 2013, Mr Mona’s stated that at the end of April 2013, Sanral had sales of 250 000 e-tags and following their recent ‘successful’ marketing campaign,eTag sales had been boosted by over 100% in six weeks, taking their eTag sales up to 600 000by mid June. However, the Department of Transport had announced a year earlier in April 2012, their eTag sales had reached over 500,000 and this number had crept up to 600,000 by December 2012.
“A major reason for the public’s rejection of E-tolling’s has been the failure of SANRAL to engage and communicate openly and honestly with the public,” Duvenage said. “SANRAL is now having to increase their marketing and PR budget by over 200% to R85m per annum in order to rectify its shattered integrity and poor image, yet they continue to shoot themselves in the foot by making such rash and misleading statements on a regular basis. The public have lost faith in this once credible organ of the state and will not succumb to their spin doctor tactics and self-gratifying publications and press inserts,” concluded Duvenage.