Fri Dec 02 22:01:11 SAST 2016

Highway tolls set to violate us yet again

Pinky Khoabane | 2011-02-13 00:09:25.00 Comments

Pinky Khoabane: There's probably nothing worse than being repeatedly violated. And frankly, that's exactly how I feel about the news that you and I will have to fork out a couple of thousand rands each month on toll fees just so that we can use Gauteng's highways: 66c per kilometre is the figure mooted.

It would seem that the abuse began the moment the World Cup was announced to take place in South Africa. A bunch of unscrupulous, greedy businessmen began turning the wheels of corruption, overcharging the taxpayer billions to build roads and stadiums.

The Competition Commission has uncovered widespread collusion in the construction sector, in which owners held meetings to share out government tenders and decide, through a structure called "The Party", what they would charge.

The commission noted that the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town and the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban and some road projects might have been part of the bid-rigging and anti-competitive activity by this industry.

It is a disgrace that some of the leaders in this industry have been fingered for possible wrongdoing: Group Five, Grinaker, Murray & Roberts and others.

Right there, the taxpayer was being screwed.

Violation No 1.

I recently wrote of similar meetings held by the bosses of bread companies, who had had no scruples about gathering in a Dutch Reformed church on Sundays to devise ways of swindling the consumer. Talk about unholy alliances.

When we questioned whether South Africa - with its glaring inequalities between rich and poor - should be spending this type of money on roads and stadiums instead of housing, health and education, we were swiftly advised to shut up.

We were spun the line about how the money for the roads had been budgeted for beforehand and that some of the money being spent had been contributed by football's governing body, Fifa.

As it now transpires, we were duped.

Violation No 2.

Barely a year after the World Cup, we are being asked to pay for the roads through a fee that will be levied on cars travelling on the highways.

Depending on whom you speak to, this would be a way of paying for the roads - or maintaining the roads. Then again, there are those who say this would alleviate the congestion on the highways and could be a congestion charge similar to that used in other cities.

In effect, these repaired and improved highways would be for those who could afford it.

But how many more taxes are we supposed to pay in order to move around on this country's roads?

We are already paying several taxes including licence fees, parking fees, toll fees and now this tax.

I don't even want to get into the ludicrous traffic fines, with speed limits set so low that they simply allow for daylight robbery by some obese men and women hiding behind bushes. To ask us to drive at 60km/h in today's motor vehicles is asking for the ridiculous.

Anybody with any sense knows that the effects of this tax will be dire on the motorist and will have a ripple effect on food prices and the cost of public transport.

Taxis and food companies will have to increase their prices to offset the tariff.

Violation No 3.

In the middle of this uproar, the Minister of Transport, Sbu Ndebele, then invites us to a summit to be held in March, at which we would discuss ways in which the country's roads would be financed in future.

Which future are we discussing? The one in June 2011? That's when, according to South African National Roads Agency Limited advertisements, the toll fees will be implemented.

Furthermore, is this matter still up for debate?

The contraptions that are to do the deed - with scanners, cameras and all - are already set up across the province's highways, simply waiting to click away, take my details and send them somewhere where my bank account can be debited with the charges.

Surely, as in most countries where this system has either been proposed or implemented, a consultative process should have taken place beforehand. We should have had the summit, even a referendum, before the structures were erected.

Violation 4.

If indeed the minister takes our input seriously, what does he do if we say we don't want to pay? Commit wasteful expenditure by throwing money at the same lot who ripped us off in the first place?

Who are you kidding, Mr Minister?

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Highway tolls set to violate us yet again

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