New funding model for e-tolls being sought
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Johannesburg – The government’s final decision on the controversial e-tolling system remains far from being announced.
This has become clear following Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s written reply in Parliament this week.
Mbalula said the final decision would be delayed because he continued to work with Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana to determine a new funding system for e-tolls.
Many rejected the user-pay system that the government implemented on Gauteng freeways. Calls to scrap e-tolls forced the government to reconsider the system.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura stated in his State of the Province Address last year that an announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on e-tolls was imminent.
But many months later, Ramaphosa remained tight-lipped. Mbalula said he had tabled various funding options for the e-tolling system, but the cabinet had sent these back to the drawing board.
“After consideration of the options, the Cabinet directed that both the Transport Department and Treasury must jointly re-examine the options and re-submit to the Cabinet for consideration,” Mbalula said.
He revealed that it was decided in his meeting with the finance minister that further studies on funding options were necessary.
“The date for announcement on the future of e-tolls in Gauteng cannot be determined at this stage as the discussions around funding for the system continue to take place, focusing on the various financial options available,” said Mbalula.
Mbalula insisted that the government sought a funding system that would not hurt the public purse.
“It is important to note that the department is committed to finding a workable solution that does not drown the country in debt but is equally sensitive to the public’s issues, and once it is clear on the sustainable model, a submission will then be made for the cabinet’s final decision,” he said.
The Star reported previously that the National Treasury had warned that scrapping e-tolls would force the state to pay R11.1 billion in unguaranteed debt. It would also be responsible for guaranteed debt of R19bn.
But there have always been concerns that the government introduced the e-tolling system, run by the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), without properly consulting the public.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), one of the organisations opposed to e-tolls, heaped scorn on Mbalula's statements yesterday.
Outa chief executive Wayne Duvenage said the system was already being funded by the government because only 15% of motorists were paying.
“This funding system should continue. As far as Outa is concerned, there are very few options to consider.
“To date (between 2016 and 2020), Treasury has already allocated Sanral R10.8bn for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan, which is on top of another annual grant of R70bn (an annual average of R14bn per annum) for the same period for non-tolled roads.
“This has been the solution being practised for the past number of years, and should remain as the entire country benefits from Gauteng’s freeway upgrade,” Duvenage said.