Johannesburg - DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane is taking the fight against e-tolls to Parliament because the risk of urban tolling is not limited to Gauteng.
“Tolling is not just a Gauteng matter – it’s a national matter,” Maimane said in Johannesburg on Monday.
“In the current legislative framework, if tolling should happen in Cape Town, should the mayor and premier not be consulted? Should the residents not be able to respond?” he asked.
The party now plans to force Parliament’s transport portfolio committee to conduct a “full review” of the e-toll scheme, the outcome of which the party wants debated in the National Assembly.
“Anything less than a recommendation of scrapping the system will not be a victory for the people of Gauteng, and the people of South Africa, where further e-tolls could soon be imposed,” he said.
DA spokesman on transport Manny de Freitas will also draft a Private Members Bill to Parliament with Maimane, aimed at making the roll-out of e-tolling in the future “consultative and democratic”.
Among the amendments the party will put forward are:
Limiting the transport minister and the South African National Road Agency Limited’s power to declare a national toll road by making that decision subject to “extensive public consultation”.
Making “simple objection documents and forms easily accessible to the public” as well as placing adverts in newspapers and signage on the affected road notifying interested parties of the proposed tolling.
Imposing a threshold of objections at which the minister must request the president to declare a referendum wherein the people of South Africa have the vote on the declaration of a toll road.
Forcing the minister and Sanral to take into account comments of the premier of a province in which a road is located, and to make the decision to toll only in consultation with the premier and after consultation with the relevant mayors through whose municipal boundaries the road may pass.
Lastly, the DA also hopes to move for an amendment of the National Roads Act of 1971 to include a provision that all income raised from the fuel levy be ring-fenced for the purposes of road construction and maintenance only.
On Monday Maimane said the party was not opposed to infrastructure development, but that road construction and maintenance could be financed better through the fuel levy.
He said the upkeep of Gauteng roads benefited the whole country, and a national levy was not untoward.
De Freitas dismissed Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s recent pledge to review the province’s e-tolling, saying he was “playing political games”.
“The premier is doing this for political reasons. All the tracking polls show e-tolls was the number one issue,” De Freitas said of the ANC’s poor performance in Gauteng in the general elections.
“Sanral is not seen as a well-managed institution.”
He brushed off talk that scrapping e-tolls now would be irresponsible given the major depreciation of Sanral bonds and that the agency needed to pay back contractors.
“Bonds are bought based on confidence. As much as it may sound reckless, it’s good that it is perceived that way because it’s part of a total project,” De Freitas said.
“It’s not irresponsible to call for the scrapping of e-tolls because, of course, we’ll pay the debts - add a few cents extra to the fuel levy and we’ll be able to pay off the debts.”