E-tolls postponed again
DELAYED AGAIN: The e-toll debate scheduled for parliament's last sitting of 2012 was withdrawn and will now be heard in 2013, once again halting the controversial "user pays" system.
JOHANNESBURG - The controversial Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill was withdrawn from the National Assembly order paper at almost the last minute on Thursday, November 22, 2012.
Shortly after the Assembly convened on Thursday afternoon the ANC asked that two resolutions paving the way for the bill to be debated later in the day be withdrawn. No reasons were given and the request was agreed to by the House.
OPPOSITION PARTIES TAKE CREDIT
According to a memorandum attached to the bill, its provisions are essential to implement e-tolling and the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project and other proposed road infrastructure projects in the country.
Shortly afterwards, at least two political parties claimed credit for the withdrawal.
In a statement, Democratic Alliance spokesman Ian Ollis claimed "pressure from opposition parties has pressed the ANC to withdraw" the bill.
"After a call by DA chief whip Watty Watson, which was supported by other parties, and a threat from the opposition to stage a walkout during the debate on the e-toll bill, the ANC withdrew the bill this afternoon.
"This means that the Gauteng e-toll will not be the anticipated lump of coal in Christmas stockings this year," he added.
The committee's deliberations on the bill would now continue in the new year.
It could be considered only when parliament reconvened on February 10, 2013 and would then be sent to the National Council of Provinces.
"This is indeed a victory for opposition parties and the South African public," Ollis said. "We will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that all proper processes are followed when this bill is considered by parliament in 2013 and that adequate public participation has taken place through the NCOP."
The Freedom Front Plus also claimed credit, saying it had prevented the bill from being discussed in the Assembly on Thursday. Spokesman Anton Alberts said he had proposed various "important legislative amendments" to the bill in terms of parliamentary rule 254, which allowed for amendments to be proposed before a second reading debate.
These amendments now had to be discussed by parliament or be referred back to the assembly's transport committee.
Alberts said: "It was decided to withdraw the bill from the order paper for Thursday after FFPlus chief whip Corne Mulder brought the amendments to the ANC's attention."
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it was happy the bill would not now be rushed through but would be delayed until 2013 "to allow for amendments".
Spokesman Patrick Craven said: "This decision does not, however, mean the e-tolling has been scrapped, only postponed, and Cosatu will continue with its campaign of mass action against e-tolling, starting on November 30, 2012."
The delay should be used for a proper public debate on the principle of e-tolling which, Cosatu was certain, would reveal overwhelming opposition to the move to privatise a public asset.