Sanral boss defends toll fees
Sanral’s chief has hinted that the views of journalists and road users on the new toll system and the money to be paid to foreign firms border on xenophobia.
He lambasted the media for creating a hype around the more than R4 billion to be paid to the consortium awarded the controversial Gauteng toll road tender.
Speaking at the National Press Club in Pretoria on Wednesday, Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli indirectly referred to the xenophobic violence which swept South Africa in 2008. “I don’t want to hear about it. It is wrong,” said Alli, who avoided answering some of the questions from the media.
His avoidance and dismissal of some questions came after a Pretoria High Court judgment made on Friday found that the declaration of a section of the highway in Centurion as a toll road was irregular and should be set aside.
Among the questions Alli was asked on Wednesday was whether he was concerned over the fact that one of the companies providing an IT hardware service for the R20bn Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) was the controversial firm GijimaAst.
He was also asked whether people’s constitutional right to freedom of movement was not being hindered, because they would be prohibited from using the new toll roads if they could not afford the tolls and whether, as some economists had hinted, the new tolls- were not a form of social apartheid.
GijimaAst was shrouded in controversy last year when the Home Affairs Department cancelled a R4bn contract with the firm.
The R6.22b toll system tender for GFIP, which consists of 185km of tollroads, was awarded to the consortium ETC-JV, whose members consist of the firms Kapsch Sweden, Kapsch Austria and TMT South Africa.
Kapsch Sweden and Kapsch Austria hold a 65 percent stake in the consortium, while TMT holds a 35 percent stake.
Kapsch Austria also holds a majority share stake in TMT.
An infuriated Alli, who stated that while he had faith in the country’s public transport system he would not use it, said he was not concerned about GijimaAst’s involvement. “What I am concerned about is the attitude to foreign companies like ‘your’ newspaper. Sureties have been given. Our contract is with ETC-JV and not GijimaAst. If anything goes wrong then the consortium will be held accountable,” he said.
Responding to questions on people’s constitutional rights, Alli said: “The law in the country says that if you travel on a tollroad you must pay for it. I don’t make the laws and if someone doesn’t like it, they can take it to the Constitutional Court.”
Alli lashed out at the media for creating a hype around the fact that more than R4bn was to be sent to the consortium’s foreign firms.
“We need to engage in a responsible manner. These reports concern me, especially the hype around foreign investment and the underlying trend to say that we have been robbed.”
“Tomorrow when Somalis are attacked we all throw up our hands. Do we have a different agenda now that we are saying that we have been robbed?” he said.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said: “The right to movement was adopted in context of the past where pass laws prohibited people from living in certain areas because of their race. If you take this section on its own, I would be surprised if it is applicable, but … our constitution provides us with social economic rights. An argument could be made that by putting in tollroads you are making it more difficult for people to get to their jobs, hospitals and homes.” - Pretoria News