E-tolls to be scrapped? Not so fast, decision still pending

27 May 2021 - 11:54 By Gill Gifford
A decision may be imminent on Gauteng's e-toll system. File photo.
A decision may be imminent on Gauteng's e-toll system. File photo.
Image: Halden Krog

An early morning radio show on Thursday morning saw Gauteng transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo appear to announce that the much-criticised e-toll system is to be scrapped — in what is being described as a potential monumental stealing of thunder from national transport minister Fikile Mbalula.

The interview between journalist Stephen Grootes on SABC’s SAfm Sunrise show and Mamobolo saw the transport MEC state “we are already living in a post-e-toll period”.

He added that though a formal announcement on the issue by the government is yet to be made, “we believe any imminent announcement is good news”.

National government remains insistent that no decision has yet been taken.

But when Grootes went to great lengths to clarify the situation from Mamabolo, the MEC reiterated: “They are being scrapped.”

However, shortly after the interview, Mamabolo backtracked on his comments, claiming on Twitter that he had noted a “misleading tweet” from @SAfmnews on the issue.

“All we are saying as Gauteng is that the national government will make an announcement on e-tolls and we are positive it will be favourable to our position which is public knowledge.”

The interview sparked a statement from the ministry of transport, noting the radio interview and stating that no decision has yet been made on the future of e-tolls, describing Mamabolo’s statements as nothing more than “the position which Gauteng is lobbying national government to adopt on e-tolls and we respect that”.

“Currently no decision has been made, regarding the future of the e-tolls. At the moment, the ministry of transport is seized with the responsibility of ensuring that beyond a determination of whether the e-tolls are scrapped or not, proper decisions are made with regard to how road infrastructure rollout and maintenance in this country will be financed.

“This is what the minister of transport and his counterparts in the national government are determining at present, and at the right time, when all that has been finalised, an announcement will indeed be made,” the ministry said in a statement.

Activist Wayne Duvenage, the CEO of civil action organisation Outa (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse), said while the e-toll war is one it has been fighting for nine years, it will only celebrate the scrapping of the system once it is formally announced by the minister.

“This is a matter that will need to be confirmed by either cabinet or the minister of transport, Fikile Mbalula. If indeed this decision has been made, MEC Mamabolo may have let the cat out the bag and stole minister Mbalula's thunder. Hence the retraction on social media,” he said in a statement.

Duvenage also said a mere announcement that e-tolls have been scrapped, won’t cut it. “There are many other decisions that will need to be taken and executed, for example, the cancellation of contracts with ETC who collects e-tolls from motorists and amendments to the Sanral Act. Unpaid e-toll debt will also have to be written off without further threats to prosecute non-payers.”