Cape Town - Transport Minister Dipuo Peters’ threat to withdraw from a Gauteng e-toll review panel is sabre-rattling, says the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa).
On Tuesday, Peters appeared before the Gauteng e-toll review panel which was established by premier David Makhura to review the socio-economic impact of the controversial R20bn system.
When a legal expert on the panel said he would reserve questions for South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) CEO Nazir Alli to “take him on”, Peters responded “I don’t think we came here for those type of things.”
The minister went on to say “we didn’t know we were here for a judicial process” and that “if that is the approach that some people will be ‘taken on’, then chairperson, I don’t think we will go ahead”.
Peters was further quoted as saying paying “e-tolls” is the “responsible thing to do” and that while the system is “not perfect”, doing nothing is not an option. Peters also said officials from Treasury would explain why government decided on the user-pay model
But Outa spokesperson John Clarke has hit out at her comments.
"Her tactic is that she's using this as an opportunity to try and basically rattle sabres and (establish) a prelude to issuing summons to people not paying e-toll bills," Clarke told Fin24.
"She's doing that deliberately I think to basically set the stage for what they have to do if they're going to live up to their commitment," said Clarke.
Clarke, though, went on to say that Outa is “ready to go to court for the first person that gets charged.”
"This is not a criminal matter we believe. We're ready," said Clarke.
National and provincial government split
Makhura set up the e-toll review panel after Gauteng’s ruling party, the ANC, suffered one of its poorest election results in the province in May this year.
Support for the ANC in South Africa’s richest province fell from 64% to 53% in this year's general election.
Experts have cited e-tolls as among reasons for the drop in support.
Subsequently, Makhura set up the e-toll panel, which comprises of business, civil society and government.
The only organisation to motivate e-tolls on the panel thus far has been the Consulting Engineers South Africa. The transport department and Sanral are to make make presentations to the panel over the next three days.
But Peters said in September that national government does not plan scrapping the system despite the establishment of the panel.