ANC rethinks e-tolls
In what appears to be a major change in the Gauteng ANC's policy on e-tolling, the ruling party in South Africa's economic powerhouse says consideration should be given to raising the fuel levy as "an interim measure" to pay for improvements to the province's freeways.
In its attempts to address the mounting debt incurred by the SA National Roads Agency following a court order preventing the implementation of e-tolling at the end of April, the ANC in Gauteng also proposes a "once-off'' contribution from companies making "super profits" in the province.
Sanral has incurred a R20-billion debt to improve Gauteng's free ways, with the government paying more than R5-billion to cushion it.
According to the Gauteng ANC's discussion paper on public transport and infrastructure, which is to be debated at the ruling party's policy conference at Gallagher Estate, Midrand, this week, Gauteng members also want the government pension fund to be used for infrastructure development.
The Gauteng e-tolling project has stalled following a court challenge by civil society organisation Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa). The matter is now before the Constitutional Court.
Outa wants an increased fuel levy to be used to fund the freeway improvements in view of Gauteng's position as the continent's economic hub.
Last month, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan appealed to the Constitutional Court to set aside an earlier ruling in the Pretoria High Court that stopped Sanral from kick-starting the project.
The ANC in Gauteng hopes to push the policy conference for a solution that will minimise harm to its constituency.
In its report, the party's provincial executive said the impasse over e-tolling could, if not handled properly, damage the ANC and the government's reputation, both in terms of electoral support and South Africa's international credit rating.
Other, longer-term proposals tabled by the provincial ANC include upgrading of alternative roads to tolled routes and a speeding up of the roll-out of public transport projects such as the Bus Rapid Transit system, and the revitalisation of Metrorail.
The province's policy proposals come at a time when Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is leading a government task team in an attempt to find a solution to repay the loan that Sanral took to finance the project.
The e-tolling debacle is understood to have prompted Zuma to remove Transport Minister S'bu Ndebele and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin, from the portfolio.
Sapa reported that Zuma last night said South Africans needed to constructively criticise the ANC's policy discussion documents.
Speaking at the ANC's Progressive Business Forum banquet, Zuma said the party would "open itself up" to allow the broader society to understand the party's thinking.
"We now publish our documents for people to look at and comment on and discuss and add views ... I haven't seen any other organisation doing this," he said.
"It goes a long way to show the confidence the ANC has ... That it believes people have a contribution to make.
"We have never deviated from that culture, we say: 'We are here ... What are your views about South Africa'?" Even though the conference might adopt certain resolutions regarding the documents, it would still consider "recommendations" before the policies were finalised at the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung, Zuma said.
"Participate in the evolution of the policies that will guide this country," the president added.