Parliament - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has ruled out the possibility of holding a referendum on e-tolls, while at the same time calling for support for Eskom as it battles the electricity crisis.
He assured the country that load shedding was being attended to and asked for patience from South Africans as the power utility was still fixing its ageing power stations.
Ramaphosa, who was answering questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday, told MPs that e-tolls were here to stay.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi of the EFF challenged Ramaphosa for the government to call for a referendum on e-tolls, saying that in their research, the EFF had found people didn’t want e-tolls.
Ramaphosa said this would not be done.
“The issue of the referendum has not been the issue that has been considered. It is out of the question anyway,” Ramaphosa said.
He added that the decision to reduce toll costs was based on the findings of the advisory panel appointed by the Gauteng government.
Toll costs reduced the unnecessary burden on the poor and low-income earners, he said.
“The advisory panel found that the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project had benefited the economy and the people of Gauteng through a better-quality road system, reduced travel time, improved fuel efficiency, reduced vehicle operating costs and improved logistics efficiencies,” Ramaphosa pointed out.
Both the national and Gauteng governments would share the cost of the shortfall, arising from the reduction of the toll fees. He added that tolls were needed to improve the state of the country’s roads.
Ramaphosa declined to comment on proposed tolls in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, saying he did not have the information.
The country’s road maintenance backlog was standing at R197 billion, he said.
Replying to questions on Eskom, Ramaphosa reiterated statements by President Jacob Zuma and various ministers that load shedding would be here for the next 18 to 24 months. He called for patience while Eskom was addressing its energy needs and fixing its old power stations.
DA MP Natasha Mazzone said she wondered if the “war room” on the energy crisis was a public relations exercise, as nothing seemed to be working.
“The issue you have raised has been canvassed extensively in this Parliament, from the president to the ministers,” Ramaphosa said.
“We are not sleeping on the job. We are working on it,” he said.
He added that South Africa was not the only country in the world facing a power crisis.
Ramaphosa pointed out that many countries, including the US, have gone through various stages of power shortages.
The good thing about South Africa was that work was being done to keep the lights on, he added.