Cape Town - The announcement of a review on e-tolling in Gauteng does not mean motorists should stop paying, the chairwoman of Parliament's transport portfolio committee Dikeledi Magadzi warned on Tuesday.
“South Africans should continue to pay while hiccups (are) being ironed out, and while initiatives aimed at encouraging payment are being pursued,” she said in a statement.
The position of her committee, and Parliament, was that e-tolling was a legislated programme meant to generate funding not only for the loan the SA National Road Agency Limited (Sanral) was servicing, but also for maintaining roads in the province.
Last month, Gauteng premier David Makhura announced the establishment of a panel to examine the impact of e-tolling.
On Tuesday, his office said the names of the members of the panel would be announced on Thursday this week.
Magadzi said Makhura's pronouncement last month was never intended to discourage people from paying the e-tolls.
“The pronouncement of a review task team, during the opening of the Gauteng legislature, was never intended to discourage people from paying, and certainly never suggested that e-tolling has failed.
“The review task team is a matter of government, and would definitely look at an alternative funding model for the project. E-tolls are about improvement and maintenance of roads, and are definitely not a burden on the poor,” she said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Magadzi's committee heard that more than 173 000km of municipal roads across South Africa were in poor to very poor condition.
Repairing them would cost about R149 billion, acting transport director-general Mawethu Vilana told MPs.
“What we generally refer to as 'backlog' is in the categories poor and very poor. (This alone) requires about R149 billion. It's a mountain to climb,” he said.
According to the department's strategic and annual performance plan, tabled at the briefing, there are 173 089km of roads in “poor to very poor condition”, of which 16 402km are paved roads, and 156 687km gravel ones.
The cost of repairing them is R118bn and R31bn respectively.
The document defines poor roads as those needing “significant renewal or rehabilitation”, and very poor roads as those “in imminent danger of structural failure and requiring substantial renewal or upgrading”.
Vilana said the majority of roads in these categories were in municipalities across the country.
“Municipal road infrastructure, particularly road network, is really a challenge.”
Of those roads in very good or good condition - about 40 percent of the total - the majority were managed by Sanral.
Vilana also told the committee that the agency now managed over 22 000km of roads in South Africa.
“Of (this), only 14 percent is tolled. The other 86 percent is funded through the public purse.
“So when we talk about Sanral and the tolling of roads... that is what we need to contextualise: the majority of roads' infrastructure is funded through the public purse.”
Asked during a break in the proceedings if this ratio - 14 percent tolled to 86 percent public-funded - was likely to change much over the next five years, Vilana told Sapa this was unlikely.
“There is a sense that we won't want to alter that balance,” he said, adding that to do so would “over-burden” road users.
However, government was looking to involve the private sector in tolling.
“There is room and space for tolling of what we believe is key economic road infrastructure,” he said.