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AA urges government to expedite its decision on future of e-tolls

27 May 2021 - 14:02 By Motoring Reporter and AASA
The fate of Johannesburg's controversial e-toll system is still not clear.
The fate of Johannesburg's controversial e-toll system is still not clear.
Image: Halden Krog

The Automobile Association (AA) says comments by Gauteng MEC for transport Jacob Mamabolo on e-tolls do not amount to an official announcement on the system, and may not be considered government’s formal position on the matter. 

“The system is still in force as it was previously and while we share the MEC’s sentiments that the system should be scrapped, no formal announcement that they have been scrapped has been made,” notes the AA.

The association says when the announcement is made, and if a decision to scrap e-tolls is taken, several key questions must be answered.

“Are people who have been paying for e-tolls going to be reimbursed, and will outstanding debt owed to the system also be scrapped? And, critically, what is the future funding model going to look like? These are important issues that must be dealt with apart from simply saying the system has been scrapped,” says the AA.

The AA reiterates its position that e-tolls cannot be maintained in their current format, that the system must be scrapped, that people who have being paying for e-tolls must be reimbursed, that all debt must be written off, and that an alternative funding mechanism through the ring-fencing of funds from the General Fuel Levy (GFL) be adopted.

On Thursday  morning, Mamabola, speaking to host Stephen Grootes on national radio station SAfm, said, “We (provincial transport department) are already in our state of mind, and just in terms of our legitimate expectations, already living in the post-e-tolls period. We already believe any announcement is imminent ... but (cabinet) ministers, in what they have said, they’ve talked about ‘good news’. ‘Good news to us already means we are looking to a completely new e-toll dispensation, and we are just waiting for that to be formalised. But where we are, there’s no turning back on e-tolls; e-tolls are a thing of the past and we are just waiting for that to be formalised.”

He was then asked by Grootes:“So, they’re being scrapped?”

Mamabola replied: “They’re being scrapped. People of Gauteng should not be burdened with paying for national roads that serve all of us, that serve neighbouring states, that serve the whole economy of our country. That is unfair to leave it to the people of Gauteng. All of us must pay, all of us must carry the burden. It must be fair, and it must be equitable. It is completely wrong to leave the burden of the national roads that support the economy only, exclusively, to the people of Gauteng. They have to be scrapped.” 

However, during a post-cabinet media briefing on Thursday, acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told reporters that no formal decision on e-tolls has been made, and that transport minister Fikile Mbalula is still presenting various options to cabinet on the way forward for e-tolls.

“Cabinet is considering various possibilities relating to the system (either) being scrapped or maintained. What the MEC is communicating is not a national position,” Ntshavheni said.

On Monday, Mbalula made yet another commitment to outline the future of e-tolls when he said an announcement “is imminent”. No indication has been given as to when such an announcement will be made.

“The MEC’s position has been known for some time but he does not make the final decision on the future of e-tolls, that decision must come from cabinet and it’s unfortunate that it has been dragging on for some time now. We would again urge cabinet, and the minister of transport, to expedite discussions on the matter with a view to making an announcement as soon as possible. Gauteng motorists are owed the benefit of an announcement, and should not be kept waiting for much longer,” concludes the AA.