Johannesburg - The debate about whether Gauteng motorists should pay for e-tolls is a “misplaced and emotional” issue, and people should stop whingeing and pay up, says the ANC.
The governing party said the implementation of Gauteng’s freeway e-toll system could not be used as an excuse for a decline in the number of votes it received in the province in the elections – despite civil disobedience campaigns against the controversial system.
“If you talk about pressing issues (in Gauteng), you talk about e-tolls. It’s a misplaced debate, an emotional debate. It doesn’t talk to the working class because no (other) province has the same infrastructure as Gauteng,” ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Sunday.
He and Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, head of the ANC’s election campaign, were addressing journalists on the outcome of the elections at the party’s Luthuli House headquarters.
Mantashe urged people to appreciate the “world-class” roads and public transport infrastructure Gauteng boasted by paying for e-tolls.
“The middle class is growing very fast and must appreciate that it (Gauteng) is better in terms of development. It (to pay or not) is a non-issue of a debate,” Mantashe said, citing OR Tambo International Airport and the bus rapid transit system as examples of top-class infrastructure.
A report suggested on Sunday that ANC Gauteng leaders had blamed e-tolls, corruption and the Nkandla scandal for the loss of votes.
The ANC obtained 53.59 percent of the vote in Gauteng, down from 64.4 percent in 2009.
In a warning to Gauteng ANC leaders, Mantashe said “the worst that could happen in Gauteng is to try to find sources for the loss” in votes.
“The opposition focus on Gauteng because it is the (economic) hub. That is it, leave the scapegoat.”
Mantashe was evasive when asked whether President Jacob Zuma’s utterances during the ANC’s elections victory party on Saturday – “there is nothing wrong with Nkandla” – reflected the organisation’s position.
“It’s now an issue of the institutions of the state, whether it is the (Special Investigating Unit) or the Hawks. If it cost us votes, it can’t be in Gauteng. If it is costing us votes, it is costing us as a movement.”
Ominously, Mantashe said while the ANC would not disband its Gauteng provincial executive committee, the party would intervene to salvage votes ahead of the local government elections in 2016.
“The question is, how do you give the province a lifeline… National intervention, yes. We will delve on Gauteng because it hasn’t done well,” he said, adding that the party was also concerned about Tshwane and the Nelson Mandela Bay metros.
Mantashe sought to downplay the decline in the number of votes the ANC garnered nationally. He suggested that people were being cynical to say the ANC had underachieved by getting 62 percent.
“Anything above 50 percent globally is regarded as a success. In South Africa, it’s not done that way. The ANC is expected to benchmark itself against itself,” he said.
He added that the decline in the number of seats – down to 249 from 264 in 2009 – would not affect the ANC in Parliament as the party “hasn’t proposed any constitutional amendment that requires the majority”.
Mantashe said the ANC would also do a post-mortem in the Western Cape and its traditional strongholds of Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
“The marginal decline in Limpopo and Mpumalanga (is worrying). These are 80 percent (in votes) provinces and we will deal with that.”
He said the emergence of new parties had not affected the ANC.
“Yes, we have lost seats, but we still have 62 percent-plus, which doesn’t have an impact.”