Minister to receive e-toll report
RESOLUTION REQUIRED: A report detailing the public's views on the e-toll system coming to Gauteng from 2012 will be forwarded to the minister of transport.
A report detailing the public's view on the Gauteng highway tolling system will be forwarded to transport minister S’bu Ndebele after a vote by the provincial legislature on Tuesday, November 29.
While all political parties agreed on the need for public participation and infrastructure development, not all agreed on the funding method for such projects, petitions committee chairman Jacob Khawe said.
The Gauteng legislature heard that the Democratic Alliance wanted the entire tolling contract with the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to be cancelled.
DA Gauteng caucus leader Jack Bloom said it was possible to get out of the contract with the right legal expertise. "One thing is clear: the people of this province have spoken loudly and clearly that they do not want these tolls," he said.
"We need to cancel this contract... and it can be done."
Bloom questioned the purpose of the debate on Tuesday when the first phase of the tolls was already expected to start in February.
Gauteng roads and transport MEC Ismail Vadi reiterated the position of Ndebele on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. He explained to Bloom that future phases of the project had been halted until vital input from all parties about funding methods was obtained and a mutually beneficial solution found
"One thing the DA has ignored is the context in which tolls have been added... the maintenance and development of roads is critical to the transport of people and goods. It is in the public interest to upgrade roads and build new ones," Vadi said.
The state did not have adequate funds to finance this infrastructure improvement and needed to look to strategic private partnerships to meet the demands of a developing country, he said.
Fred Nel, DA legislature member and deputy spokesman for roads and transport suggested, at one point, that the R60 billion of "wasteful, fruitless expenditure" could have paid for both the Gautrain and the toll system in cash.
Infrastructure Development MEC and African National Congress member Bheki Simon Nkosi said the debate was "not about whether we like tolling or not tolling", but rather about deciding how to go ahead with the project.
"We are a developing country. Our options are limited," he said. "How do you expect the government to provide infrastructure?"
The state could not get development aid as it was expensive and was tied to unreasonable conditions, he said. To rely on the national or provincial fiscus was also not sustainable.
Nkosi said the only option was to invite the private sector to help with infrastructure while retaining ownership of the assets being created.
'WASTE OF TIME'
Anti-toll petitions had been submitted by the Democratic Alliance, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA National Civic Organisation as part of public hearings.
Cosatu announced it would hold a civil disobedience campaign at the end of February, 2012, against the tolling system as the public hearings had "turned out to be a waste of time".
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said he had requested a meeting with Ndebele to explain why the project was going ahead, but he had not had a response. Vavi called for people not to buy e-tags and to drive through the tolls without paying.
The first phase of the tolling system is scheduled to come online in February 2012.
Forty-two electronic toll gates have been erected on the N1, N3, N12, N17, R21 and R24 freeways around Gauteng, covering a distance of about 185km.