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DA contradicts itself on e-toll panel

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IOL pic jun19 Mmusi Maimane

Independent Newspapers

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane. File picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - The DA has given contradictory reactions to Gauteng premier David Makhura's announcement on Thursday about a panel that will assess the impact of e-tolls in the province.

The Democratic Alliance's Gauteng MPL Neil Campbell welcomed Makhura's announcement, while the party's Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane described it as a publicity stunt.

Campbell said the panel was an acknowledgement by the African National Congress that e-tolling was not working and that other viable methods could be used to pay for the country's roads.

“This, in conjunction with the DA's call to have the system reviewed in Parliament, will hopefully go a long way towards providing relief to cash-strapped Gauteng motorists, businesses and ordinary residents who are feeling the knock-on effects of the system,” he said in a statement.

Maimane, on the other hand, said the only body with the power to legitimately review the e-tolling system was Parliament, through its portfolio committee on transport.

“The people of South Africa need to see action on e-tolls, not a 'talk-shop' in Gauteng that has no legal powers,” he said in a statement.

“It is unclear why Transport Minister Dipuo Peters has remained silent on this matter, while premier Makhura continues with this charade.”

He called on Peters to show leadership and support the need for the review of e-tolls to take place in Parliament.

Maimane said the terms of reference Makhura announced on Thursday indicated that the panel was not empowered to take any actions against e-tolls.

Earlier, Makhura said government was serious about assessing the impact of e-tolls on Gauteng residents and the economy.

“If we were not serious we wouldn't announce that this matter required our attention... We wouldn't come this far,” Makhura told reporters in Johannesburg.

He announced the names of 10 of the 15 members of a panel that would examine the effect e-tolling had on the province. It would meet for the first time next Thursday.

The panel members are: chairman Muxe Nkondo, Patricia Hanekom, John Ngcebetsha, Vuyo Mahlathi, Luci Abrahams, Fiona Tregenna, Anna Mokgokong, John Sampson, Lauretta Teffo, and Chris Malikane.

Five more members were expected to be announced later, Makhura said.

The panel was tasked with inviting proposals and submissions from Gauteng residents on proposed solutions to e-tolling. It would submit its findings and recommendations to the provincial government.

The panel was expected to present monthly reports, and final reports and recommendations to the Gauteng provincial government by November 30, 2014.

On September 25, President Jacob Zuma signed into law the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill, giving the go-ahead for e-tolling in Gauteng.

The e-toll system started operating across Gauteng on December 3, following several court challenges and widespread public opposition.

Makhura said those who saw the panel as the ruling African National Party's attempt at doing damage control were cynics and “playing cheap politics”.

There had been speculation that the ANC's loss of support in Gauteng during the May 7 general elections was partly due to the implementation of e-tolls.

Makhura urged Gauteng motorists to continue to pay their e-toll bills while government worked at finding a lasting solution.

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