File picture:  Karen Sandison / Independent Media.
File picture: Karen Sandison / Independent Media.

Let's talk about the e-toll elephant in the room

By Kennedy Mudzuli Time of article published Oct 15, 2018

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Johannesburg - About 10 days ago, Tshwane’s MMC for Roads and Transport Sheila Lynn Senkubuge launched mobile clinic services at the Bronkhorstspruit Taxi Rank. This launch formed part of the City’s Transport Month project 2018.

On the same day, Transport Minister Dr Blade Nzimande boarded a train from the city, then on to a taxi and headed to Ekurhuleni, where he officially launched Transport Month.

Apart from these two activities, not much has been heard on Transport Month in the capital. But a greater opportunity is being missed here.

Tshwane has one of the country’s biggest public transport hubs at Bosman Street.

With the festive season just over a few weeks away, the City could be educating people there about safer travelling during the silly season.

It is often too late by the time thousands of people pack their bags in December. By that time, people only care about getting home or to their holiday destination, and nothing else. This information and awareness should start now, not in December or January when festive season road deaths statistics are being compiled.

The mobile clinic is a noble idea as it brings health services to the taxi ranks, but that shouldn’t be the only focus at a time which is dedicated to transport.

The motoring public still has a bone to pick with government regarding e-tolls. The e-toll gantries are still there on the highways and bills are sent via post every month.

The number of opponents to the user-pays principle appears to have dwindled.

Threats and bully-tactics from government to non-payers have dried up - and the SA National Roads Agency has a debt to settle.

The last the public heard of e-tolls was when it was disclosed what the system was costing the government, because of non-compliance over the past five years.

As a country, we should be using Transport Month to have a robust debate on the future of e-tolls.

If the people want the system to go, why persist with something they don’t want?

Premier and provincial ANC leader David Makhura is on record as saying e-tolls partly cost the party votes in the municipal polls in 2016.

Despite the blatant defiance of the public, and burden to government, e-tolls still stand, and another Transport Month later, the elephant in the room remains with us.

Does Makhura want to lead ANC in Gauteng into the general election next with the e-tolls monkey still on the party’s back?

In the early days of Transport Month, government experimented with high occupancy vehicles lanes on the highways as well as Car-Free Day. Inconveniences were massive, but the impact was felt by all. It was a case of love or hate it, but we all knew it was Transport Month.

Where is the Tshwane public transport map and chart? How does a tourist commute around the capital city?

Ministers taking a ride in public transport means very little; how about a debate on a crucial matter such as e-tolls? And a relook at local transport and if it serves the city’s needs.

There’s no better time to talk about these matters than this month when all attention is on transport and related matters.

Mudzuli is Pretoria News assistant editor. He writes in a personal capacity.

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