The government came under fire at an e-tolls hearing in Johannesburg, with the public accusing it of paying attention only when there is violence. File Photo by Thobile Mathonsi.

The Treasury has declined to comment on reports that South Africa is looking at options to retire a R20 billion debt incurred by the SA National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) to upgrade highways around Gauteng.

Spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane would not comment on the debt payment options. “There is a cabinet process underway,” he said.

“Cabinet will make a decision. We can't say yet what the options are.”

Sanral had planned to introduce e-tolling in Gauteng on May 1. However, a court ruling issued late in April halted the e-tolling plans pending the outcome of a full court review.

The government has appointed a committee chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to investigate the matter.

News agency Reuters reported on Friday that the Treasury may have to pay for the entire R20 billion debt, well above the R5.6

billion budgeted for in February.

Asked at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum for Africa in Ethiopia on whether tolling would have implications for the budget, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told reporters: “No, no we'll manage this.”

“We have many options and that's why cabinet appointed this committee... Some work has already happened and we meet early next week...” he said in the comments quoted by Reuters. - Sapa