THE ghost of the controversial e-tolls loomed large on Monday as Gauteng Premier David Makhura delivered his State of the Province Address, prompting him to announce his administration was prepared to help the province’s motorists settle their debt.
Speaking at the University of Joburg’s Soweto campus, Makhura maintained that the final resolution of the e-tolls matter was one of the issues that remained on his radar, saying the system had no future in the country’s economic hub.
“Our position has not changed. We remain determined to ensure that e-tolls are not part of the future of our province,” Makhura added.
According to the premier, his administration anxiously awaited the finalisation of details by the national government on the mechanics of settling the debt.
“We’re even prepared to contribute something as the provincial government to ensure the e-tolls are scrapped. There is no turning back,” he added.
Motorists reportedly owed the SA National Roads Agency more than R10.9billion in unpaid e-toll fees.
Makhura said the province was awaiting the multidisciplinary task team to finalise its lifestyle audits to commence action against politicians and administrators.
“We are ready,” he declared.
He said that his administration has imposed stringent cost containment measures over the past five years and sold his official residence in 2016.
“We are buying no new cars for the premier and MECs. Official vehicles will only be replaced when they reach their full life cycle and we have been strict with costs,” he said.
Makhura also assured residents in struggling municipalities that his administration would not be blind to the reality that local government faced many challenges, including financial, institutional and in service delivery. “ a clean audit without delivery is not good,” he added.
Gauteng was the only province in which all municipalities obtained 100% unqualified audits and also had no qualified audit or disclaimer, according to local government audit outcomes released by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu last week.
Despite Makwetu’s findings, the West Rand and Sedibeng municipalities face serious financial viability problems and could not even pay salaries.
“We are going to be more proactive and interventionist in order to ensure improved oversight and support to municipalities in the province,” Makhura said.
He said that Gauteng Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela had assured him that SAPS specialised units on priority crimes - gender-based violence, hijackings, house and business robberies, drugs and farm murders - were being strengthened.
He elevated school safety and the worst performing police stations and policing precincts to his priority list. “We want our children safe in all schools. We will focus on the worst schools on gangsterism, violence and drugs and regular raids and searches will be conducted”
The premier also vowed to deploy 10 patrollers per ward in all the province’s 508 wards, and to revive community policing forums.
DA legislature leader Solly Msimanga called his speech a “state of planning address” and gave him until next month to fix the e-tolls issue.
The SACP in Gauteng said while it welcomed the broad thrust of the five priorities - the economy, jobs and infrastructure, education, skills revolution and health, integrated human settlements and land release, safety, social cohesion and food security and building a capable, ethical and developmental state - it was time for less talk and more action.