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Sandy Johnston warns the ruling party of the seething anger of a poor population once it feels the financial effects of e-tolls.
JOhannesburg - Regarding the e-tolling of Gauteng freeways, I believe the government needs to understand why there will be a groundswell of anger if it goes ahead and tolls our freeways.
When the majority of our poorer citizens realise the consequential and considerable increase in the cost of food and travel, the tragedy of Marikana will look like a storm in a teacup.
When moms and dads can’t afford to clothe their children or give them a small lunch box for school, anger will abound in the hearts of millions of people.
The recent announcement that the e-toll system will be implemented on Gauteng freeways has made it clear the ANC government is committed to going ahead with this iniquitous system.
It should carefully consider the following:
* For hundreds of years, authorities have built public roads – travelled on at no direct cost to the user – to stimulate economic growth. The costs to the user of this tolling project will stifle economic growth and have a considerable inflationary effect.
* Our ministry of transport has been allocated budgeted amounts, year after year, to maintain roads. It is a matter of record that these budgets were largely unspent. Why? Where did the money go? The then Gauteng transport MEC, Ignatius Jacobs, offered the response that they couldn’t find suitable people to do the maintenance.
* Historically, a large component of the fuel levy we pay is for maintenance. Where has this money gone? If someone changed the allocation of fuel levies, who made the decision and why were we not advised?
* The fuel levy we currently pay is more than R3 a litre.
* If 20c is added to the levy, this will yield R27 billion, we are told.
* The road authorities have said an amount levied nationally on fuel to fund Gauteng freeways is not fair, but this is patently not true. This levy will benefit roads nationally.
Various authoritative sources have suggested that of an additional 16c and 36c a litre on the fuel price would have covered the entire cost of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project with negligible collection costs and greater accountability.
These amounts, in terms of an average-size passenger vehicle (10km/litre), would translate to a cost of between 1 and 4c/km of freeway travelled (instead of the now 30c our government is legislating) – and all the money collected via the levy would go to funding the improvement project, as well as ongoing maintenance on national roads.
* An Austrian company will administer the project. Why? What selection criteria were used? Why should we be paying the billions in outflow to a foreign country? Was the decision made because it would then be easier for a corrupt government to have part of that money redirected to itself, without citizens knowing?
* Most importantly, the inflationary effect of e-tolling Gauteng freeways is, even to the simplest of minds, obvious. Every goods-bearing truck will be paying heavily for use of the “freeway”. According to economists, the inflationary effect will be significant, This will result in increased costs for, among many other commodities, essentials.
While the wealthy can survive inflation without any real problems, the majority of South Africans families, including middle income, lower-middle income and lower income, are adversely affected by it.
* Lower-income families are financially stretched to breaking point. The inflationary effect of the government’s grand scheme will lead to increased wage demands across the board and widespread strikes across industry and commerce. Is there any wonder Cosatu is standing steadfast against the project ?
* The cost effect of the Gauteng freeway improvements e-tolling on inflation is much greater than it needed to be. Why is the answer to this question still not forthcoming?
Marikana occurred because of poor management of an explosive situation – with tragic results – from the side of organised labour, company management and the government.
Think again, President Jacob Zuma, and the rest of you in the ANC – you who are supposed to be the caretakers of our nation’s future.
You provoke the righteous anger of our people at your peril.
* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.