With a final cabinet decision on e-tolls still pending, many were still heartened by Gauteng Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo indicating the scrapping of the controversial system in an interview with SAfm.
“We are waiting for that to be formalised, but where we are there is no turning back on the e-tolls. The e-tolls are a thing of the past and we are waiting for that to be formalised or confirmed,” said Mamabolo.
However, Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni subsequently said Gauteng has always lobbied the national government to scrap e-tolls, but there was no final cabinet decision yet on the issue. He said Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula continues to table various reports around e-tolls.
With a decision pending, here are 13 things to remember about the e-tolling system:
- In 2007, the cabinet approved the upgrade of the Gauteng freeways and a year later, the government declared Gauteng’s 186km freeway a toll road. This declaration remains in place.
- The SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) decided to implement an electronic tolling (e-toll) system as a means of collecting funds to cover the bonds (about R21billion, mainly from the Public Investment Corporation, which paid for the freeway upgrade construction costs.
- Sanral formally informed the government on no less than two occasions in 2008 – the same year that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) construction began – that the project would cost between R11.8bn and R11.9bn.
- Sanral informed the public and the authorities that the project was completed in 2011 at a price tag of R17.9bn, almost 60% more than the price tag indicated in 2008.
- The e-toll tenders were concluded in 2009 and the Austrian-based Kapsch TrafficCom company, known as Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), in a joint venture with local partners, won this tender to manage the five-year operations contract, plus other items, at a value of R6.2bn.
- The public outcry from all sectors began in 2010, when the construction of the e-toll gantries sparked public awareness and debate about the funding scheme.
- In September 2011, the contract with the ETC-JV was signed at a value of R9.9bn, some 60% higher than ETC’s tendered value indicated by Sanral.
- In 2012, Outa was formed as a consortium of business and community organisations, funded largely by business at that time, to challenge the e-toll decision and have it reviewed in court.
- In March 2012, Outa took the National Treasury and Sanral to court to stop e-tolls pending the outcome of a legal challenge to the system. Their legal challenge interdicted the e-toll launch in April 2012, but this was overturned in September 2012. The Constitutional Court ruled against Outa, citing the principle of separation of powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary, and saying that it was the executive’s prerogative to decide on how to finance public projects. Sanral said it was ready to launch the scheme within two weeks but failed to do so for a further 15 months.
- On December 3, 2013, against all advice and an ongoing outcry from business, labour, political parties and the public at large, who cited many practical reasons why the scheme would fail, Sanral and the Department of Transport switched on the e-toll gantries.
- By 2016, Sanral had started issuing individual summonses to e-toll defaulters. Many members of the public who were summonsed, contacted and mandated Outa to handle this matter on their behalf.
- In July 2019, President Ramaphosa tasked Minister Fikile Mbalula to engage with Finance Minister Mboweni and Gauteng Premier Makhura to find cabinet a solution.
- On November 1, 2019, Mbalula announced that the e-toll task team had tabled a range of proposals to the cabinet, including a “preferred reconfigured approach to GFIP” and that the cabinet had not made a decision, but told the team to do some further work and report back to the cabinet in two weeks. He said the the cabinet would then make a decision.