South Africa 19.9.2013 06:00 am

Elections not to blame for e-toll delay – presidency

FILE PICTURE: An e- toll  sign prices along N1 next to Douglasdale. Picture: Nigel Sibanda.

FILE PICTURE: An e- toll sign prices along N1 next to Douglasdale. Picture: Nigel Sibanda.

The signing of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill, allowing for e-tolls to launch in Gauteng, has nothing to do with next year’s National elections, the presidency has said.

The Bill still remained under President Jacob Zuma’s conside-ration, said spokesman Mac Maharaj yesterday. “As soon as he makes his decision, the public will be informed. The process of elections doesn’t affect legislation.”

Speculation that Zuma was not signing the Bill because of the widespread public opposition to e-tolls, was something that “happens at election time”, Maharaj added.

The speculation however was not unwarranted, according to political analyst Shadrack Gutto. “I believe that the e-tolling legislation and the Protection of State Information Bill are controversial and manifested broad opposition in the public, including from corporates, trade unions and taxi drivers.”

From that point of view he believed it was something Zuma would “think about” before signing prior to the elections. E-tolling would become a major “fighting point” for opposition parties next year, he said.

“They will say, here is a government that doesn’t care about what the public is saying. I think from that one can say reasonably that the ruling party will be cautious in signing the Bill so it becomes law before elections.”

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa), who are gearing up for a Supreme Court of Appeal hearing next week against the user-pay system, said it knew that e-tolls was a “hot potato” during election time.

“What could the delay be? Make the call and give us a date,” Outa chairman Wayne Duvenage said. “We know it’s a hot potato and the ANC in Gauteng are angry about e-tollng,” he charged.

The transport department has said that it is “cautiously optimistic” that “issues” surrounding e-tolling would be resolved so that the South African National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) could get the project rolling.

These issues included the delay in Sanral’s intention to start e-tolling earlier this year after it faced a number of hurdles along the way. This resulted in it being financially impacted, said department spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso. Rikhotso “could confirm” that Sanral was, however, ready to begin e-tolling despite this.

The department was just waiting for the office of the presidency to give it an update on way forward, said Rikhotso. “We are awaiting on the presidency to give us the way forward because the Bill needs to be signed into law. We remain consciously optimistic that the issues will be resolved soon and Sanral can begin tolling.”

Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, in a written reply to a parliamentary question, yesterday said that e-tolls would be implemented this year, but the date for it to be implemented still needed to be determined, reported Sapa.

Peters swapped portfolios with former Transport Minister Ben Martins two months ago following a Cabinet reshuffle.

 

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