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Cosatu in e-toll talks

Oct 05 2012 11:53 Sapa

Thousands protest against e-tolling in Gauteng earlier this year. (AFP)

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Johannesburg - The inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on e-tolling was meeting with the Congress of SA Trade Unions on Friday morning, government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said.

"We are concluding discussions today... government will then go back and consider all the issues," he said.

The IMC had been expected to announce its plans for the implementation of e-tolling in Gauteng on Friday. However, Masebe said this could be delayed because the IMC needed time to discuss the issues raised.

A decision on when to make the announcement would be made later on Friday.

Cosatu has mounted a strong campaign against e-tolling, maintaining it was the wrong way to raise money to maintain the country's major roads.

The government's plans to introduce e-tolling in Gauteng have provoked opposition by motorists and residents of South Africa's economic heartland.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said it was clear the government intended to launch e-tolling in Gauteng before a court review took place.

This was judging from the comments made by the transport minister urging the public to buy e-tags this week, it said in a statement.

Can’t be 'half-pregnant'

Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage said: "Since having access to the ETC [electronic toll collection] contract... our expert transport economist’s assessment of the numbers and efficiency of e-tolls has revealed that the plan suffers from oversights and is a most inefficient manner in which to fund the R17bn freeway upgrade."

He said Outa was expecting the IMC to announce it was reducing the e-toll tariff and the capped maximum charge.

"They [will] go on the charm offensive to woo the public into believing this is the best option. We also believe their announcement will include the acceptance of e-tolling by a few entities that were originally opposed to the plan," said Duvenage.

Outa rejected the application of e-tolling under the "user-pays" principle.

"The reality however is that you can’t be 'half-pregnant' on e-tolls. You either e-toll or you don’t."

Cliff Johnston of the SA National Consumer Union said the collection costs and the burden placed on society were independent from the amount charged per kilometre.

"Indeed, as the toll rate per km falls, the collection costs become an increasingly larger percentage of the amount collected. This is the ultimate tragedy of the plan," he said.

Road users would still have to foot the bill of more than R1.1bn per annum to cover the electronic toll collection process.

Forcing e-tolling on citizens a gross injustice

Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald said it was worrying that the ETC contracts remained confidential.

"The public, who are ultimately expected to pay the fees, should be given full view of the entire contract. Until now, all we have seen are few tables from the authorities which vary substantially in the costs and projected revenues, casting serious doubt regarding the authenticity and accuracy of these figures."

Michael Tatalias, CEO of the SA Tourism Services Association, said forcing e-tolling on citizens was a gross injustice.

"[It] implies that citizen's intellect is being taken for granted by the authorities, that they are unable to detect when a planned revenue/tax collection system is a waste of their hard-earned money and time."

Ari Seiris, CEO of the QuadPara Association of SA, said it was concerning that its members were not consulted during the e-toll planning.

"Whilst a solution is currently being sought for people with disabilities, the last proposed tariff structure and policy makes no accommodation for those without transport, but who rely on the generosity of many private individuals to transport them around Gauteng, often using the network of highways," said Seiris.

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