What a difference one person (or his absence) can make to an organisation. Nowhere is that more apparent today than in the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral), which, now that it is no longer the personal fiefdom of the arrogant Nazir Alli, is a much more open and pragmatic body.
Alli was abusive and dictatorial in forcing through the concept of e-tolls and was dismissive of all critics, preferring threats to rational discussion.
Sanral today has been battered by the e-toll struggle that has been waged against it by millions of motorists. At most, just 35% of the vehicles using the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project system are paying their way.
The project is running at a massive loss, considering its loan repayment obligations. Sanral may be the entity you love to hate, but you have to feel some sympathy for them.
They are an organisation of engineers … who want nothing more than to be able to execute their mandate, as a state-owned entity, to build and maintain South Africa’s roads infrastructure.
Under Alli, the illogical and unfair “user pays” principle was used to justify the collection of money via an electronic system.
Had the government adopted a national fuel levy five years ago, when the project came on stream, it would have almost been paid off by now.
And, if the other provinces had complained about funding Gauteng’s roads, that fuel levy could have been made regional … and it would still have been more efficient than e-tolling.
The real lesson of e-tolling, though, is that South Africans are tired of getting told what to do and especially fed up of paying more (in addition to some of the highest taxes in the world) for infrastructure.
Hopefully, we will see a return to sanity soon and an efficient, acceptable way of paying for our roads.