Outa welcomes recent media statements and suggestions by MEC Vadi on a ‘rethink’ of the future of e-tolls, however, “we seek clarity on the statement which appears to have shed more confusion on the matter” says OUTA’s chairperson, Wayne Duvenage.
In the statement made by the Sunday Independent, Gauteng MEC Vadi suggests that e-tolls should be replaced by more efficient user pays mechanisms, such as a ‘regional [or national] fuel levy, a provincial tax or shadow tolling’. OUTA largely agrees with these views, as each of these alternatives attract virtually zero administration costs and have high, if not 100% compliance levels. The e-toll scheme on the other hand, comes at a huge administration cost (over R1,3bn pa) and will never achieve high compliance, as Sanral is now learning some six months after launching the scheme.
“The obvious question is, does Sanral concur with the messages from MEC Vadi? If so, does this mean there is a ‘half-pregnant’ approach to the ill-conceived e-toll plan,” say Duvenage. “If indeed the scheme is questionable and regarded as ineffective, then it goes without saying that the entire scheme should be set aside until a more efficient and equitable solution is found and not just for future road upgrade plans. Every day the fiasco continues is a burden to society. We trust that COSATU’s request this week for President Zuma to call off the e-toll scheme’s ‘privatization of our public highways’ in his State of the Nation Address, will be heeded accordingly.”
OUTA has updated its e-tag count on vehicles last week and maintains less than 40% of vehicles are tagged. This suggests that Sanral’s recent discount carrot has not produced the uptake they had hoped for, sending an even louder message that the public at large were not going to be duped or enticed into the irrational scheme. If one extrapolates the R550m outstanding e-toll debt amounted by 28 February 2014, we estimate this figure to have now climbed to approximately R1bn.
OUTA continues to encounter a stream of public and businesses concerns about how the cost of e-tolls will push them into a negative cash situation. In essence, the tolling of social and economic infrastructure is becoming detrimental to the well-being of this country’s economic hub and with our nation’s recent credit rating down-grades, we can ill afford to allow the e-toll fiasco to continue to make matters worse. We have far more important nation building issues to grapple, alongside matters of road safety, an integrated public transport plan and the taxi industry’s compliance to permit regulations.
OUTA believes that Sanral is preparing to issue summons to a few freeway users for non e-toll payment in the next month or two, in an attempt to scare the public into e-tag compliance. If indeed Sanral has plans to criminalize the public for the non-payment of a questionable and irrational scheme, we believe this will have significant unintended consequences along with a negative backlash by society, something our country can ill afford at this sensitive stage of our economic development.