Johannesburg - There are no sufficient alternative routes available from Pretoria to Johannesburg, a public hearing on the e-tolling of Gauteng highways heard on Wednesday.
“Going from OR Tambo I have to ask which is the alternative route?” asked Primedia Broadcasting head Yusuf Abramjee, speaking in his capacity as a resident of Pretoria.
He argued that the R55 and the R511 were said to be alternative roads, but were in dismal conditions.
“Let me put it bluntly: the (R55) is in a very poor state.”
The hearing are being held to give affected parties an opportunity to share with the government their views about the proposed e-tolling.
Abramjee said capping tolls at R550 a month was small comfort.
This was a large amount of money for many people and would make life harder for them day-by-day.
He called being taxed on urban roads an unjust law.
“Do the right thing. Postpone it and listen to the people,” Abramjee said.
In October, the transport department instructed the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to suspend all processes related to the tolling of national roads.
The suspension included the planned phase two of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan, the Cape Winelands and the Wild Coast.
“It is important to note that there's a clear distinction or separation between phase one (almost completed) and phase two (no work has started as yet )” said transport spokesperson Tiyane Rikhotso.
He said phase one was almost complete and that the department wanted to hear alternative views from the public on the best possible model of financing the debt which had been incurred.
Last month, the government and Sanral announced new tariffs for e-tolling of Gauteng's freeways.
The announcement, made on October 26, marked the beginning of a 30-day public consultation process, after which Transport Minister Ben Martins would have a fortnight to “apply his mind”, followed by another fortnight to gazette the final tariffs.
This would mean e-tolls would come into effect four days before Christmas.
The government has already contributed R5,75 billion to the project, or 25 percent of the total debt owed by Sanral.
The suspension was welcomed by various organisations, including the SA Municipal Workers' Union, the Freedom Front Plus and AfriForum.
In August, the Cabinet approved reduced toll tariffs for the N1highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Motorcyclists were expected to pay 24c a kilometre, light motor vehicles 40c, medium vehicles R1 and “longer” vehicles R2 a kilometre.
Taxis and buses were exempted.
On Tuesday, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) called on all those affected by e-tolling in Gauteng to attend the public meetings.
“A maximum of 130 persons can be accommodated per venue. Cosatu urges people to get there early and make sure they don't miss the chance to tell government and Sanral NO to e-tolls,” said Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven. - Sapa