Johannesburg - “We don’t want to go the way of the Eskom model where they need R200 billion to get us out of a mess.”
This was the warning from civil engineer Wally Maine on the sort of problem we could face on road infrastructure if the e-tolling funding model was derailed.
The second day of the Gauteng e-toll hearings showed a polarised view from business into the generally unpopular road-funding mechanism.
One business organisation was openly in support of e-tolling, the other against it.
The day began with presentations from the Consulting Engineers of South Africa, which expressed the view that there was no other way to fund the roads than the e-tolling method.
Maine said the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project was a local network whose financial burden should not be spread across the country. “To say it is a national issue is a misnomer. It is a local system …”
Maine said the fiscus was stretched and road building could not compete with critical social needs.
He said the continuation of e-tolling was vital in order for much-needed new roads in the province to be built.
Black Business Council chief executive Babalwa Ngonyane said that while their members had found positives such as reduced stress and lower vehicle maintenance costs in the system, the negative aspects of tolls outweighed these.
The main negative was the cost of the system for ordinary users, she said. In particular, it was hitting small to medium businesses hard.
Ngonyane advocated using the fuel levy to fund the infrastructure build and said public-private partnerships between the government and business should be considered first in future.
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union joined labour in its stance against e-tolling.
Satawu provincial secretary Christopher Nkosi spoke about the pressure on the economy, the effect this had on the working class and the rising unemployment in the country.
Nkosi said it was nonsense that the poor would be excused from e-tolls because taxis were exempted.
“In our view, taxis are privately owned. We argue strongly that they are not public transport.
“Just because they ferry people to work does not mean they are public transport.”
Nkosi said the majority of the population who owned private transportation were the working class.
He gave a scenario of a truck driver who had to report to work at 3am. At that time, there is no transport and he would have to get a car to retain his job.
“But how many e-tolls will he pass?” Nkosi asked.
The roads should be paid for through the fuel levy, or through higher taxation of business, he said.
SANRAL APPEAL TO KEEP PROJECT SECRET DENIED
Applications by Sanral and the Protea Parkway Consortium to keep certain court documents on the N1/N2 Winelands Toll Highway project secret were dismissed by the Western Cape High Court yesterday.
However, Judge Ashley Binns-Ward made orders that would effectively keep certain information under wraps until the court started to review the SA National Roads Agency’s decision to toll the roads. No review date has yet been set.
Sanral had applied to the court to prevent the City of Cape Town from filing its supplementary founding papers in an open court.
Judge Binns-Ward said the city could file its papers per normal court procedure, but that no one could disseminate or publish the administrative record or any affidavit in the supplementary papers before the review hearing.
Sanral had divided the content in the city’s papers into two categories of information.
The first category related to the proposed project’s costs, which Sanral argued would cause “unjustified and unnecessary concern among the general public” if released prematurely.
It argued it would result in unjustified antagonism and bias against Sanral from the general public.
It believed the city, in its supplementary founding papers, which contained expert opinions, was trying to convey that the decision to toll was financially untenable.
Sanral asked that the information be kept out of the public domain until it had filed its answering affidavit with its own expert opinions.
The judge found this was unnecessary because all relevant applicants and respondents were bound by the court to use the information only for the review application, not for a “collateral or ulterior purpose”.
This meant the city was not allowed to disseminate or publish the information because it would amount to contempt of court.
The second category of information in the city’s supplementary founding papers related to the tender process, which was still outstanding.