Gauteng / 25 February 2011, 2:15pm / Louise Flanagan
The Gauteng government traded off control of the freeways to the SA National Roads Agency Ltd three years ago for a slice of the toll revenue.
And when the deal was made, the intention was to toll all Gauteng’s freeways, including the inner-city M1 and M2.
The toll cut was to be used to cross-subsidise public transport, and Gauteng apparently hoped to make 30c/km.
The deal is contained in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Sanral and the province, and was described in a strategic business plan by the now defunct Gauteng Transport Management Authority (GTMA).
There were also proposals for another fuel tax, and an extra tax on businesses with employees working within Gauteng cities.
On Tuesday, in the wake of commuter fury at the proposed 66c/km toll fees for the upgraded freeways from June, Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele said the prices would be reconsidered.
The day before, Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said her government was not opposed to tolls in principle, but was concerned about the lack of consultation in the tolls, “in particular with the Gauteng provincial government”.
But the province’s deal with Sanral was done when Ignatius Jacobs was MEC for transport, roads and works. He is now an economic adviser to the premier.
Yesterday, Mokonyane’s office said she would not comment on the tolls issue, and Jacobs could not be contacted.
The provincial Department of Roads and Transport denied a deal had been made to make money from the tolls, and did not comment further.
In March 2008, Gauteng signed at least one MoU with Sanral over the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project; the then premier Mbhazima Shilowa and Sanral CEO Nazir Alli signed at least one MOU; and notices moving Gauteng roads into Sanral’s control were gazetted. Months later, Shilowa left both the government and the ANC.
Shilowa said yesterday he was not aware of any deal for Gauteng to get any of the toll money, but that any such decision would have been made at the department level and would not have been discussed at provincial cabinet level.
Jacobs told the Gauteng Legislature in June 2008: “Our department has signed a memorandum of understanding with Sanral which essentially appoints Sanral as the implementing agent for the upgrading and expansion of the network.”
He didn’t mention what the province hoped to get out of the deal.
One MoU seen by The Star simply hands over the R21 to Sanral without any indication of anything in return.
The first strategic business plan for the newly established GTMA, written in July 2008, described the plan.
The authority – set up under Jacobs’s then department – was disbanded early last year, and its work was taken over by the renamed provincial Department of Roads and Transport, now under MEC Bheki Nkosi.
“The Gauteng provincial government (GPG) does not have the legislative power to toll roads for the purpose of generating revenue; as a result, the GPG has transferred the roads that are classified as national (schedule 1) to the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral),” reads the plan, under the Freeway Improvement Scheme heading.
“In exchange, the GTMA and the department are jointly negotiating to get a portion of the revenue generated from these roads for upgrading and development in Gauteng. A portion of the revenue that accrues to the GPG is to be allocated to the GTMA and spent in terms of predetermined initiatives.”
The GTMA plan estimated that Gauteng’s share of the tolls would be “plus-minus R100 million per annum for all provincial roads that have been assigned to Sanral”.
“The Freeway Improvement Scheme intends making all freeways in Gauteng toll roads, irrespective of the ownership of the freeways,” said the plan.
“The inclusion of the municipal freeways M1 and M2 therefore still needs to be resolved.”
Alli did not respond to a request for comment on , but has previously said toll fees were to be used only to fund the costs of building and maintaining those roads that were tolled.