Johannesburg – The government has proposed new laws following the dismal failure of e-tolling revenue collection from Gauteng motorists, who owe more than R6 billion in unpaid tolls.
The purpose of the South African National Roads Agency Limited and National Roads Amendment Bill is to amend previous road acts to address the public outcry which arose as a result of the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.
When e-tolls were introduced in 2013 as part of the project, motorists accused Sanral of not conducting proper consultation. To ensure this does not happen in other provinces, Sanral is amending the bill that governs e-tolling.
The proposed amendments to the bill will give provincial and municipal governments more power in the implementation of e-tolls.The amendment bill acknowledges the disastrous consequences in Gauteng and aims to prevent them. The proposed bill further states that “the manner in which the public consultation process was conducted on this project was not to the satisfaction of the public, and there is a need to strengthen consultation”.
They now want to give more power to premiers and municipal governments with regard to the roads that will be tolled. The premier will be given at least 30 days to hear out objections on a road that has been flagged for tolling. If objections are more than 55 percent the premier will have to call for a referendum within six weeks.
In the amendments, Sanral is also required to, before tolling the roads, identify “an alternative route of comparable distance, which must be a tar road, be maintained adequately and be suitable for increased usage”.
In June transport minister Joe Maswanganyi said the South African government would once again review Gauteng’s e-toll policy, in the hope that a better one could be found.
“We want to come up with a tolling policy that our people will actually accept,” he said. “We are not closing our ears to what people are saying – we are working with the government of Gauteng and with Sanral, and at the end of the day, we believe we will come up with a policy on tolling that will be acceptable.”
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse chairman Wayne Duvenage on Sunday welcomed the e-toll Plan B and believed the amendments would go a long way in protecting motorists.
“It will be better if the consultations are done by the National Council of Provinces and provinces which are affected,” he said. “This will mean the public is consulted meaningfully, unlike in the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project – which is why it failed.”
Challenge to e-tolling
He said that if provinces were consulted, e-tolling would not be implemented – as in the case of Western Cape. Sanral wanted to toll the N1 and N2 Cape Winelands highways, but the City of Cape Town took Sanral to court in 2015, challenging the tolling of the roads.
The court set aside Sanral’s decision to toll the roads – and this, Duvenage thinks, is what will happen in most provinces.
“If they had made proper consultations in Gauteng, we don’t believe the roads would have been tolled,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that the freeway would not have been upgraded – it just would have been paid for differently. It is good that this legislation is coming through.”
He said the scheme would likely fail in other provinces.
“I don’t think other provinces will ever get e-tolls because they go beyond getting the public to buy in. It goes to the ability to administer the scheme.
Failed eNatis system
“We have a failed eNatis system and we have problems with the administration of traffic fines, and so we believe the context of the environment is one which e-tolling will fail in South Africa,” Duvenage said. He added that while e-tolling in other provinces would not take off, it would also fail further in Gauteng.
“We believe the e-tolls in Gauteng will not be around for much longer, and the reason is that the five-year collection tender comes up for renewal in just over a year,” he said. “We believe they won’t go out for tender because they are not even collecting the amount of money required.”
In February Gauteng premier David Makhura said the e-tolling system was a mistake and that no new tolled roads would be introduced in the province. It was revealed in Parliament by the Department of Transport in June that more than 70 percent of e-tolls issued were not paid by motorists.
Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona was unavailable for comment.
By: The Star