Sunday Times - - Opinion - So it’s for the min­is­ter to de­cide?

Gaut­eng premier David Makhura has promised to scrap e-tolls if the ANC re­mains in charge of the province. Chris Bar­ron asked Gaut­eng ANC spokesper­son TAS­NEEM MOTARA …

The trans­port and fi­nance min­is­ters say e-tolls are here to stay, so who do we be­lieve?

Well, it’s not a new is­sue for us in Gaut­eng. We’ve been rais­ing it for six years.

Isn’t it mis­lead­ing for the premier to prom­ise what he can’t de­liver?

No, it’s not mis­lead­ing. We’re de­ter­mined to scrap them.

But the ANC govern­ment in Gaut­eng doesn’t have the power to scrap them, does it?

No, be­cause it’s a na­tional project.

Well, the min­is­ter can’t make uni­lat­eral de­ci­sions. Our con­sti­tu­tion doesn’t al­low it. You have to have con­sul­ta­tion with or­di­nary cit­i­zens. De­ci­sions which any depart­ment takes must be in­formed by what cit­i­zens want.

So what’s your plan for the scrap­ping of e-tolls?

We’ve put op­tions on the ta­ble of what to use the gantries for. The ar­gu­ment be­fore from na­tional trans­port was that there is this in­fra­struc­ture of the gantries, what do we do with them? There are many things they can be used for.

Who’s go­ing to pay the bil­lions ow­ing on them?

Ul­ti­mately, the state through its cit­i­zens will have to pay. One op­tion we raised was to have an in­creased levy on fuel. But look­ing at where our fuel prices are, that’s not an op­tion cur­rently.

Aren’t your state­ments about scrap­ping them just empty pre­elec­tion pos­tur­ing?

No. What we’ve even said to na­tional govern­ment is that the … sys­tem has col­lapsed. And this is not a new is­sue we’re rais­ing, we’ve raised it be­fore, in and out of elec­tion or pre-elec­tion pe­ri­ods.

But aren’t you mak­ing prom­ises you don’t have the power to de­liver on?

We don’t have direct power to de­liver, but we do have the power to in­flu­ence.

If, as you say, you’ve been rais­ing this is­sue for years, where has your in­flu­ence got you so far?

The facts of the is­sue that we’ve been rais­ing over time speak for them­selves. So na­tional govern­ment is go­ing to have to face the re­al­ity that the sys­tem has col­lapsed, and al­ter­na­tives have to be sought.

Mean­while, isn’t it mis­lead­ing to tell the elec­torate that as long as the ANC is in charge of Gaut­eng, e-tolls will be scrapped?

Through its var­i­ous struc­tures the province is go­ing to in­flu­ence what na­tional govern­ment ul­ti­mately de­cides.

It hasn’t man­aged to do that so far.

There are var­i­ous ways to in­flu­ence govern­ment, and the con­tin­ued pressure will yield the re­sult we want. Not just from the ANC but from or­di­nary cit­i­zens.

There’s been pop­u­lar pressure for years and the govern­ment is stand­ing firm.

They’re stand­ing firm to their own detri­ment.

Are you afraid e-tolls will cost the ANC Gaut­eng next year?

No, we’re not.

Would you agree they’ve hurt the ANC in pre­vi­ous elec­tions?

Well, per­haps the two cities that voted for the DA in 2016 voted on the ba­sis that both DA may­oral can­di­dates said they would scrap e-tolls. So per­haps it is a defin­ing is­sue for vot­ers in Gaut­eng.

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