Criticism after parliament debate 'postpones' e-tolls debate

13 May 2021 - 06:00 By shonisani tshikalange
Outa says the government’s indecisiveness in either pulling the plug on the failed e-tolls scheme or summoning millions of motorists to court over their bills can only be attributed to poor leadership and inability to make a decision.
Outa says the government’s indecisiveness in either pulling the plug on the failed e-tolls scheme or summoning millions of motorists to court over their bills can only be attributed to poor leadership and inability to make a decision.
Image: Halden Krog

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) on Thursday launched scathing criticism at the transport department, accusing it of continuing to fail the public on e-tolls and other matters.

This follows another National Council of Provinces (NCOP) debate, originally scheduled for Thursday, that will no longer take place.

“We are unsurprised because the indecisiveness is relentless and perplexing because we can’t understand why parliament is even debating the future of the defunct scheme in the first place,” said Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage.

Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo, however, said the debate was not cancelled, but postponed — “deferred to the next term”.

Duvenage said the e-toll matter had not received the attention it deserved given the ongoing operating costs.

“This is financed by a handful of businesses and citizens who make up the last about 15% of motorists who remain reluctantly compliant,” he said.

The organisation said the government’s indecisiveness in making the obvious decision between either pulling the plug on the failed scheme or summoning millions of motorists to court over their bills, can only be attributed to poor leadership and the state’s inability to make a decision.

Duvenage said that the fact that several deadlines set by the transport department have been missed caused the public to lose trust in what ought to be an important arm of the state which needs the support of the public.

“Besides the ongoing e-toll farce, one must ask why the minister of transport is not engaging more meaningfully with civil society when it comes to input that could make a meaningful difference on matters such as the looming failure of the Aarto system, the lack of transparency within Sanral and the worsening crisis about the renewal of driver’s licences,” he said.

He said the current lack of service delivery by the transport department was unacceptable.

“Outa has suggested that licences should be valid for 10 years instead of five, something that will help alleviate problems and is an acceptable practice in many countries. We had no feedback on this suggestion, but instead read in newspapers that minister Mbalula’s department is considering a new licence card system to be introduced in the next year.” he said.

Duvenage appealed to the minister of transport to meaningfully engage with civil society as it has much to offer to improve the efficiency of the state.

“The e-toll debacle and the indecisiveness about it is becoming a laughable matter and the fact that parliament is even having debates about e-tolls is really absurd right now. Outa calls for the minister of transport to come to his senses and ensure that rationality prevails and that a decision is made soon, with no more deadlines missed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DA said parliament had cancelled the debate to give Mbalula more time.

The party is demanding that the debate go ahead as scheduled to ensure that full details are exposed, and lessons are learnt.

“Since then, three deadlines have passed without a result, or even acknowledgment. In March, in spite of another looming deadline, minister Mbalula announced increases in the tolls as if to signal their continuation. In response to a question in the NCOP on May 6 2021, Mbalula indicated that a decision would be forthcoming 'within the next two weeks', said the party.

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