Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula in an e-toll guess­ing game


The Citizen (KZN) - - Front Page - Sipho Mabena – [email protected]­i­zen.co.za

De­ci­sion on the fu­ture of e-tolls will be fi­nalised at next Cab­i­net meet­ing.

Gaut­eng mo­torists will go into the new year none the wiser on the fu­ture of the con­tentious e-tolling sys­tem, with Trans­port Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula’s prom­ise of an an­nounce­ment be­fore Christ­mas com­ing to naught.

Mbalula be­came un­der im­mense pres­sure on the e-tolls im­passe af­ter Fi­nance Min­is­ter Tito Mboweni, in his medium-term bud­get pol­icy state­ment, said e-tolls were here to stay, urg­ing mo­torists to pay and in­sist­ing that gov­ern­ment was to strengthen en­force­ment com­pli­ance from mo­torists.

The min­is­ter, how­ever, re­mained tight-lipped on the fu­ture of the Gaut­eng Free­way Im­prove­ment Project yes­ter­day.

Speak­ing to jour­nal­ists dur­ing his in­spec­tion of SA Na­tional Road Agency Lim­ited’s hi-tech traf­fic man­age­ment cen­tre in Cen­tu­rion yes­ter­day, Mbalula said: “If the e-tolls were to be scrapped, the gantries will be used for crime de­tec­tion. I am not say­ing the e-tolls will be scrapped.”

This af­ter Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jack­son Mthembu, re­veal­ing that though Cab­i­net had “noted” the re­port of the task team led by Mbalula, Cab­i­net was yet to de­cide on the im­passe.

He main­tained that the de­ci­sion on the fu­ture of the e-tolls will be fi­nalised in the next Cab­i­net meet­ing, the main is­sue was find­ing mech­a­nisms for road users to pay for road im­prove­ments.

Mthembu said the trans­port de­part­ment had worked out the avail­able op­tions, say­ing “…what we were busy dis­cussing were the most ap­pro­pri­ate op­tions, not only for the Gaut­eng e-tolls, but for our road in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment in the coun­try”.

Or­gan­i­sa­tion Un­do­ing Tax Abuse (Outa), pre­vi­ously the Op­po­si­tion to Ur­ban Tolling Al­liance, has said that strong indi­ca­tions were that e-tolls will be scrapped.

Outa chair­per­son Wayne Du­ve­nage said Gaut­eng e-tolls were doomed for fail­ure from their in­cep­tion and that the only log­i­cal move was to take them off life sup­port.

“Gov­ern­ment is not mak­ing money, ev­ery­thing goes to col­lec­tions and they ex­pected 90% com­pli­ance rate but only man­aged 20%. The scheme has col­lapsed and the read­ing be­tween the lines is that Cab­i­net will an­nounce the scrap­ping of the e-tolls in Fe­bru­ary or the an­nounce­ment will be made by (Mboweni) in his Fe­bru­ary bud­get speech,” he said.

San­ral has ex­tended its cur­rent con­tract with e-tolls con­trac­tor, the Elec­tronic Tolling Com­pany, with an­other three months, which will ex­pire in Fe­bru­ary.

Ear­lier this year, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa tasked Mbalula to head up a task team to find a so­lu­tion to the e-tolls im­passe as mo­torists re­fused to pay, with Gaut­eng mo­torists first promised a de­ci­sion by the end of Au­gust.

I am not say­ing the e-tolls will be scrapped

Pic­ture: Jac­ques Nelles

IT IS NO LAUGH­ING MAT­TER. Dur­ing his in­spec­tion of SA Na­tional Road Agency Lim­ited’s (San­ral) hi-tech traf­fic man­age­ment cen­tre in Cen­tu­rion yes­ter­day, Trans­port Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula was mum about the fu­ture of e-tolls.

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