The Citizen (KZN)

Who’s the moron, Mr Alli?

- Brendan Seery

Iwonder what Nazir Alli thought about the silly display at midnight last Thursday as Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi danced in front of a countdown clock placed underneath a toll gantry and proclaimed: Victory over e-tolls. Mr Alli, for those of you who have forgotten, was the one who brought us e-tolls – on behalf of his masters – and then treated everybody who questioned it as a moron or an enemy of the state, or both.

Revenge being a dish best served cold, I must say I am enjoying the collapse of Alli’s dream.

When he was head of roads agency Sanral, he argued with me on a phone-in show on Radio 702. I said to him: “Mr Alli, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then call it a duck. This looks like a tax and it is…”

That was the crux of the argument: why should taxpayers in Gauteng have to pay for exorbitant­ly overpriced modificati­ons to their highways when they had already dipped into their pockets for infrastruc­ture developmen­t and other services which are supposed to be levied by a government?

You were a moron, Alli fumed, if you could not understand the globally accepted principle of “user pays”.

Perhaps we couldn’t understand that because we saw every day where users of government services did not pay … in sectors from health to education.

The flick-flacks Alli and his fellow travellers at Sanral went through trying to justify the “financial benefits” of paying e-tolls for ordinary motorists in Gauteng were mind boggling.

Tame economist after economist (on Sanral’s payroll or employed as consultant­s) was trotted out to attempt to bamboozle people with numbers.

One of the most outrageous was the calculatio­n that the time of the average motorist in Gauteng was valued in the thousands of rands. Only by doing that could they justify the ripoff toll fees.

Right at the beginning of the saga, Alli and his comrades – for reasons which still cannot be fathomed – rejected the idea of a fuel levy.

Had this been applied in 2013, when the e-toll project went live, even if the revenue had been ring-fenced for Gauteng only, the new roads would have been paid off by now.

Toll roads have been a lucrative way for the constructi­on industry to make buckets of money ever since the previous National Party government started moving freight transport off rail and on to our roads in the late 1980s.

Yes, believe it or not, it was the Nats who started the destructio­n of this country’s massive and capable rail network, not the ANC, although they have joined in with gusto…

The Gauteng Freeway Improvemen­t Project’s roads – effectivel­y a one or two-lane extension of the existing network and some new intersecti­ons – cost R92 million a kilometre.

At the time the project was underway, a kilometre of four-lane highway in an urban area in the United States would have cost about R50 million a kilometre to build from scratch, according to figures from the civil engineerin­g sector in that country.

So, there were some deep troughs at which the constructi­on industry and the ANC and its comrades could eat from.

E-tolls was brought to its knees by mass public action. It should be a warning to any politician, that you govern for the people … not over them.

Finally, a thought for Nazir Alli: quack, quack, quack…

 ?? ?? ‘Mr Alli, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then call it a duck. This looks like a tax and it is…’
‘Mr Alli, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then call it a duck. This looks like a tax and it is…’

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