Some senior members of the governing party are pushing for the user-pay system to be scrapped as a way to entice voters.
The Cabinet is under pressure from within the ANC to scrap the Gauteng e-tolls in light of the upcoming local elections – and the precarious financial position of the party.
Some senior members of the governing party are pushing for the user-pay system to be scrapped as a way to entice voters. But National Treasury and some government officials fear the negative impact of such a move on future mega projects and the accompanying investments.
An ANC leader speaking on condition of anonymity said there was no better decision than to cancel e-tolls.
“We have no money to campaign as the party, we have to do something for our people. These e-tolls are burdening our people who vote for us,” he said.
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The ANC is facing bankruptcy after funders withdrew when the Political Party’s Funding Act became effective on 1 April. The Act requires party donors to reveal themselves publicly.
The ANC’s acting secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, this week said funders did not see funding the party as being good for business.
Some suggested there should be a fresh start by cancelling the historic debt owed by motorists and ensuring strict payment enforcement thereafter.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula gave an indication that some good news was on the way for Gauteng motorists after promising that a big decision was expected.
Mbalula, who was expected to announced a government decision at the end of March, has once more extended the pronouncement by a fortnight.
This forced the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to cancel its debate scheduled for yesterday on the matter to await the executive decision – which some hope is to stop the project on its tracks.
Mbalula promised to revert to the NCOP after his engagement with the National Treasury.
“We expect that in the next two weeks it should be back to Cabinet,” he said.
“Before we take on our budget vote speech we should have come to you (NCOP) and the public to announce the Cabinet decision on the e-tolls.”
The national government long ago received a report about the future of the e-tolls from a task team comprising Mbalula, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Gauteng premier David Makhura.
The decision on e-tolls had been awaited since 2019 after the team submitted its report. A senior Gauteng government official, who asked to remain anonymous, said while the province campaigns for the scrapping of e-tolls, it did not wish to completely do away with the user-pay system.
“We cannot build anything in future if we messed up on this one. We need to say to the national government, ‘can you relieve the burden from the poor and let the wealthy and corporates pay’.”
The payment of e-tolls was boycotted by the majority of motorists resulting in losses running into billions of rands since its implementation in December 2013.
Gauteng government spokesman Thabo Masebe declined to comment, saying the matter was in the hands of the national government.
“Remember, they have to decide and tell us, we will wait to hear from them. We made our stand loud and clear on this issue,” he said.