Deputy President Cyril Ramphosa’s response to parliamentary questions about the ‘new’ e-toll dispensation, failed dismally to express the real and meaningful sentiments of the hundreds of submissions made to the e-Toll Advisory Panel. The vast majority (estimated at over 90%) of the submissions by those who attended the Gauteng e-toll stakeholders meetings, rejected the e-toll scheme and supported either direct transfers from the fiscus or the fuel levy.
Furthermore, input provided during the e-Toll Panel engagement session held in Midrand on 6th February this year, saw a further reiteration of the delegates rejection of the hybrid-funding model by an overwhelming majority of the people and associations who attended, including ANC in Gauteng (represented by Paul Mashatile himself).
Another crucial issue which the e-toll review panel highlighted, was the massive tender collusion and price fixing scandal which inflated the costs of the freeway upgrade by billions of rands, and which has yet to be addressed by the authorities. Yet government’s reluctance to take a principled and ‘unpopular’ position on this matter appears to be missing. Instead, they continue to thrust an unjust, irrational and unworkable scheme onto the public, by using carrots of hollow discounts and threats of withholding vehicle licenses, to coerce the public to comply.
“OUTA’s research has estimated that the Gauteng Freeway upgrade has cost society an estimated R7 billion (65%) more than it should have, and while the Deputy President admitted that Sanral was R20 billion in the red, why was nothing said about any plans and measures needed to recover the GFIP construction overcharging?” asks Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s Chairperson.
OUTA highlights a concern that in February 2012, Treasury contributed R5,7 billion toward the GFIP project, thereby lowering the tariff from 40c to 30c. The bonds raised from GFIP were R20 billion before this injection, which begs the question of why government still reflects these bonds at R20 billion outstanding, or are they referring to other non-tolled bonds in this total? It would appear there is a lack of clarity around the accounting between traditional national roads, toll concession roads and GFIP “business units”.
OUTA consultant John Clarke happened to be in Cape Town and sat in parliament to observe first-hand the dynamics in parliament, but left shaking his head at the shallowness of the exchanges.
OUTA takes with a pinch of salt the claim by the Deputy President that thousands of motorists are enquiring and taking up the offers of discounts from the new dispensation. This is merely a feeble attempt aimed at hoodwinking the public into thinking there has been a swing of positive sentiment toward the scheme. “These were the same tactics that SANRAL used during the launch of scheme eighteen months ago, and the maximum compliance they could achieve under threats of criminal charges for non-payment, was 45% in June 2014,” says Duvenage
Today, over 2 million motorists, roughly 80% of Gauteng’s freeway users are not paying for e-tolls. So while we can imagine there might be a few thousand motorists enquiring about the new dispensation, the final number that will fall for these shallow tactics will be in the minority, just as it was in 2014. This time around, we are confident the authorities will not even achieve last year’s maximum levels of compliance.
OUTA believes the public will not to fall for Governments misleading claims of a massive reduction in the tariffs on offer. The new e-toll rate on offer is merely the e-tag rate of 30c per kilometer, with no reduction at all. The 50% reduction in the R450 cap is only applicable to 7% (seven percent) of the motorists – according to SANRAL’s own claims and this reduction means nothing to 93% of motorists.
The public are being treated like fools with these hollow carrots and are very weary that the rate of today, will not be the rate of tomorrow. The e-toll defiance is not about the money and the tariffs. It’s about a grossly unjust and irrational scheme, which is inefficient and costs billions to administer, whilst alternative efficient policies exist for Government to fund these roads, but which for some strange reasons, have been ignored.
OUTA calls on all citizens to remain civilly courageous, as they have in the past. Active citizenry has collapsed this unjust scheme before and the people have every ability to triumph again.