Zuma’s e-toll statement fans flames of public fury

President Jacob Zuma.

President Jacob Zuma’s attempts to link e-tolling to other developments in the transport sector is a farce which is misleading the nation, several organisations have said.

This was in reaction to a statement released by Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj yesterday, indicated that tolling, “like all other measures”, added to the already “existing financial commitments” of consumers.

It had, however, been met with “some uneasiness and unhappiness”, noted the Presidency.

“Some bits of information that are important for consumers to know appear to have not found its way into the public domain in a visible way,” said Maharaj.

“One is that workers travelling in buses and taxis are exempted from e-tolls. These modes of transport pass through the gantries free of charge. Transport services in South Africa are ably supported by the minibus taxi industry, ferrying about 60% of the population in Gauteng daily. They form an integral part of the integrated transport system value chain.”

Secondly, the Gauteng government has upgraded alternative roads to assist those not wanting to use the tolled roads, he said – and thirdly, there is a “much broader” infrastructure plan, emphasising rail as the backbone to assist commuters even further.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said government was taking a huge risk by forcing e-tolling onto an unrelenting and angry public.

“The decision to toll as a means of extracting funds from society was wrong and needs to be revised,” said Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage.

Road upgrades was a normal requirement, but the authorities continued to “conflate” e-tolling with the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), he added.

“The system is collapsing and is unworkable and besides the irrationality of the decision, it does not have the consensus and acceptance of the people. To try and link e-tolls to all the other developments happening in the transport space is a farce.”

Justice Project SA chairperson Howard Dembovsky found it “somewhat disturbing” that the Presidency regarded citizens as consumers.

“This speaks volumes to how we are, in fact, regarded.”

DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane said: “The President also failed to highlight the fact that the current e-toll routes are just phase one of several more routes to be tolled. The public will not be fooled by this poor attempt to justify e-tolls.”

Meanwhile, Outa has said it was not surprised by the announcement of the resignation of Ben Theron, Chief Operations Officer of the Electronic Tolling Company.

“Judging by the steady stream of complaints expressed by frustrated motorists, not only to Outa’s website, but to many other social media platforms, the picture of a system on the brink of collapse or most certainly in a chaotic situation has emerged and it appears to be getting worse by the day.”

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