The e-toll madness is taking yet another round around the central Gauteng ring road, and where it stops nobody knows.
For now, however, road users are expected to cough up R67 billion, according to Transport Minister Blade Nzimande. It is a number no one seems to know the source of.
But if Nzimande’s plan is to use money from the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) to service Sanral’s general debt, that would be illegal, according to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (Outa’s) CEO Wayne Duvenage.
Duvenage estimated the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to be in a R40 billion hole, from a R20 billion loan and R20 billion in accrued interest.
“The minister must explain how he arrived at that number. They can’t use e-toll money to fund other loans, that’s illegal,” Duvenage said. “They can’t use money from one toll system to finance other toll systems. It has to be ring-fenced to that specific toll project. It can’t cross-pollinate. It can’t be used for non-toll roads, either.”
On August 31, Nzimande said on national TV: “We owe an amount in today’s terms of R67 billion for the building of these wonderful freeways. If you take away the e-tolls now – we are not saying we are or we are not – how do you pay the R67 billion? Do you increase the fuel levy? Already there is a huge outcry that the fuel prices are high, legitimately so. So, we can’t just discuss this issue based on the sentiment that people do not want e-tolls.”
Nzimande’s office has noted – but not responded to – questions.
His words directly undercut Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who has repeatedly promised to deal with the problem.
In 2014, Makhura said in his State of the Province address (Sopa) about reviewing e-tolls: “We must make it clear that we cannot close our eyes to the cries of sectors of our population who are severely affected by the cost of travelling across the province.”
Makhura noted during his 2015 Sopa the GFIP advisory panel had found “the e-toll system is unaffordable and inequitable and places a disproportionate burden on low- and middle-income households. It is also administratively too cumbersome”.
In 2017, the premier noted in his Sopa: “… we are mobilising resources for public transport infrastructure in ways that will ensure that we don’t commit the same mistakes done with the e-tolls. We can’t build roads and only later inform citizens that they must pay”.
“They’re spending millions of rand trying to summons people but there are three million motorists. Government is in a litigation war with its citizens,” Duvenage noted. “It will lose.”