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E-tolls have failed, admits Gauteng premier

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Johannesburg - Gauteng premier David Makhura has washed his hands of e-tolls, saying the contentious project was a mistake which his administration had failed to resolve and that only the national government could break the impasse.

“I must admit publicly, as I did last year, that all the efforts we have made through the advisory panel have not led to the resolution of concerns of Gauteng motorists regarding affordability, he said on Monday in his State of the Province Address at Randfontein.

"We have tried our best. The ultimate solution can only come from national level.”

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File photo: Thobile Mathonsi

The premier said his government would continue to engage with stakeholders over the matter “in order to represent the interests of our residents”.

Makhura established the advisory panel in July 2014 to conduct a comprehensive socio-economic impact assessment of e-tolls in the province following a huge public outcry.

Political fallout

The e-tolls issue is among factors identified as having contributed to the ANC’s electoral misfortunes in the province. It lost control of Johannesburg and Tshwane to a DA-led coalition in the 2016 municipal elections.

The ANC has admitted that it lost votes in Gauteng because of e-tolls - an issue which labour federation Cosatu has marched against, calling on the ANC-led government to scrap them.

At the time of the implementation of the tolls, EFF leader Julius Malema said his party would physically remove the gantries because they didn't agree with them, while the DA erected massive billboards on several Johannesburg freeways stating: “E-tolls. Proudly brought to you by the ANC.”

On Monday Makhura said: “We are mobilising resources for public transport infrastructure in ways that will ensure that we don’t commit the same mistakes done with the e-tolls. We can’t build roads and only later inform citizens that they must pay. In fact, there will be no e-tolls on our new roads.”

Gauteng premier David Makhura delivers the State of the Province Address. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

Justice Project South Africa national chairperson Howard Dembovsky said they were delighted by Makhura’s admission that e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project was a mistake.

“Certainly, finally coming to admit one’s mistakes represents a superbly good start to finding a way to put right that mistake, and one can only hope that the premier’s colleagues who are higher up the food chain, as well as the arrogant individuals at the South African National Roads Agency Limited, will also come to realise this instead of continuing to seek to wage war with motorists who drive on these freeways,” he said.

Dembovsky added it was “anyone’s guess” as to when the national government, transport minister Dipuo Peters and Sanral would come to realise that e-tolls were a mistake, “scrap it and move on”.

He said the fact remained that the “enormously unpopular scheme has failed in a spectacular fashion and there exists less than zero chance that citizens will suddenly capitulate and buy into it”.

'A case to fight in court'

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse chairman Wayne Duvenage said it was not enough for Makhura to say they had done all they could to fight the matter.

“He has potentially a case to fight in court with the transport minister over e-tolling. He must not stand back because Gauteng is paying R260 million a year towards the e-tolls decision. They can rescind that and withhold payment,” said Duvenage.

He commended the City of Cape Town for its decision to successfully challenge Sanral’s decision to toll its roads.

“They took on national government and won.”

About 95 percent of input received by Makhura’s advisory panel was that “e-tolls are impacting negatively on society”.

Duvenage said the premier couldn’t simply “wash his hands of the matter”, adding: “I don’t think he has taken the matter seriously. The ANC, Gauteng and Makhura are remiss in their duties to step up the fight for the rights of the citizens of this province.”

ANC provincial spokesperson Motalatale Modiba hit back: “That’s an opportunistic stance because the premier actually took the e-tolls matter on review following extensive engagements with the ANC in the province.”

Sanral could not reply to emailed questions yesterday as spokesman Vusi Mona was attending to a family matter in Mpumalanga.

The Star

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