Mbalula again pushes back decision on E-tolls — to February budget speech

29 November 2021 - 20:00
By Iavan Pijoos
E-tolls remain a headache for the transport minister. File photo.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES/SIMON MATHEBULA E-tolls remain a headache for the transport minister. File photo.

South Africans will have to wait another few months before knowing whether E-tolls will be scrapped.

This after transport minister Fikile Mbabula yet again pushed back the long-awaited announcement to February. He was speaking at an event on Friday.

In a statement released on Monday, transport spokesperson Lawrence Venkile said media reports suggesting that Mbalula had indicated that cabinet had made the final decision on the matter was “misleading and inaccurate”. 

“Mbalula had indicated that there are a number of factors to consider in the process of finalising the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP)/e-toll matter. It is not simply a matter of scrapping or not scrapping, despite the overwhelming demand to scrap,” the statement read.

In an address on Friday, Mbalula promised that his department was “dealing” with the E-tolls matter, adding that South Africans would have to wait until February 2022 for a decision.

“We will be ready by February [2022] to make an announcement on this matter and how we are going to handle the e-toll thing in SA. We are dealing with the matter with the minister of finance. The minister of finance will be in a position to make the announcement in the budget speech in February,” Mbalula said.

Earlier in May, he told parliament that the Gauteng E-tolls saga would be resolved in “two weeks”. He had previously make the two-weeks promise as far back as 2019.

Mbalula said on Friday there was huge disobedience around paying E-tolls by motorists.

“You South African people have come with a demand to government that we must scrap E-tolls and if we don’t scrap, you don’t pay. Scrapping or not scrapping, it has financial implications to our funding model in terms of sustaining the road network in the country and maintenance,” Mbalula said.

He said it has been suggested to cabinet before to scrap E-tolls but the National Treasury put a hold on it.

“We went to cabinet, a decision was taken and when it was supposed to be implemented to scrap the E-tolls, Treasury said, ‘No, wait, we can’t.’ So that is where we are,” Mbalula said.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said the decision to reverse the toll road declaration for Gauteng freeways required formal enactment in law.

“Until this happens, this statement must be taken as rhetoric. Outa would also like to point out that scrapping the e-toll scheme is the cheapest option, as none of the current e-toll funds are being allocated to the freeway bonds and there are no penalties if the scheme is cancelled,” Outa said in a statement.

“For now, we shall keep the champagne on ice,” said Wayne Duvenage, Outa’s CEO.