Call for urgent meeting on tolls

2015-02-26 07:45 - Fin24

Cape Town - Compliance and applause must be earned, not begged for or enforced, said the Opposition To Urban Tolling Alliance in response to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene's comments on e-tolls in the 2015/16 budget speech.

"Concerns regarding the socio-economic impact of toll tariffs have been heard, and revised monthly ceilings will shortly be proposed," said Nene in parliament. He added that further government funding could be expected when he tabled his adjustments appropriation in October this year, which would provide some relief for both road users and the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

READ: E-toll tariffs to be slashed

Outa on Thursday said it would write to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, to request "an urgent meeting to lodge Outa’s concerns at the narrow and superficial way in which government leaders are misconstruing the widespread opposition to e-tolling". 

Outa said it objected to Nene's description of Ramaphosa's approach to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project as “carefully balanced” while reiterating the policy of a “cost recovery from users” for “sustainable road infrastructure financing”.

Ramaphosa had spoken to the Gauteng Provincial Government and Sanral but not to Outa. The fact that he has also not consulted with Cosatu or other civil society stakeholders who have been critical about e-tolls can hardly be seen as a “balanced approach”, said Outa.

It also pointed out that the cost that needs to be recovered for the GFIP "is estimated to be some R7bn more than it should have, because of Sanral’s inability to detect or address the collusive tendering by a cartel of road construction companies". 

Motorists have "no confidence that Sanral will do what is ethically and legally required to address this gross economic crime", said Outa.

Referring to Nene's disappointment at the lack of applause in response to his announcement with respect to the GFIP financing problem during his budget address, Outa noted that the state can at best force only a reluctant small minority to comply. 

"No government can force the majority to cooperate. The majority will only cooperate if public institutions are in both word and deed, transparent, accountable and sensitive to the needs of citizens... If Minister Nene wants applause, he should now intervene to urgently ensure the several billions of inflated cost on the GFIP is recovered from the colluding road construction cartels."

A partial bailout by reallocation of funds will not entice the public on board, said Outa, just as was the case when former finance minister Pravin Gordhan extended R5.7bn towards the e-toll scheme in 2012, to reduce the e-toll tariff from 40c to 30c. "In fact, a lower rate makes the scheme more irrational by increasing the percentage cost of collection," said Outa.

Outa made the point that in the light of widespread public outrage at President Jacob Zuma’s "failure to comply with the public protector’s findings that he is personally liable for the cost recovery of massive overspending on security upgrades on his private residence", GFIP users are fully justified in refusing to be liable for 'cost recovery' if the president does not lead by example. 

Outa urged Gauteng freeway users to remain steadfast in their "civil courage" against e-tolls. "We also call on Deputy President Ramphosa, Minister Nene, Minister Dipuo Peters and other prominent government leaders to show political courage by meeting Outa and other critics of Sanral, to sincerely broker a 'finely balanced approach' to resolving the impasse over e-tolls." 

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