Johannesburg - Premier David Makhura was on Wednesday unfazed by the DA’s protest for the scrapping of e-tolls, maintaining he was in talks with President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding the pressing matter ahead of the elections.
Hundreds DA supporters, including the party’s premier candidate Solly Msimanga, marched to Makhura’s office in Joburg.
But the man himself was hard at work in his office with senior staff members strategising about his future plans, including the scrapping of e-tolls.
He was in his office despite the parliamentary and provincial legislature being in recess. “They are using the e-tolls for their elections campaign. I am engaged in discussions with President Cyril Ramaphosa to scrap the e-tolls. I made a persuasive call to him. He understands that these e-tolls are burdensome to the working class owning cars and middle class,” Makhura said.
In an interview with Independent Media, Makhura was adamant that “e-tolls have no future in Gauteng”.
While he appeared optimistic about the scrapping of the e-tolls, Makhura did not want to speculate on the date, unlike his fellow provincial cabinet member Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi who pronounced that these tolls will be removed in the next six months.
“The people of Gauteng do not like the e-tolls system. I want the matter resolved. I wanted it resolved yesteryear,” Makhura said.
The e-tolls are “overtaxing the working class” who are forced to use the toll roads travelling to destinations of employment including doing business in the Joburg CBD and Pretoria.
Adding to their troubles, according to Makhura, was the constant increases in petrol prices and food inflation.
“The most affected of these people are those living in townships such as Katlehong, Soweto, Vaal, who have to travel to the core ring of e-tolls to do business,” Makhura said.
However, he said his government and Ramaphosa would first discuss an alternative payment model for the debt incurred as a result of the construction of the tolls.
“The people who are making calls for the scrapping of e-tolls are not unreasonable. E-tolls in small areas of Gauteng are not working,” Makhura said.
Makhura said he had made a “persuasive call” to Ramaphosa to scrap the e-tolls and was expecting the president to give a positive response in due course. “It is for this reason that we have now referred this matter to the president for a final determination on alternative options of settling the debt.
"I am confident that a solution will be found. Once the debt is settled, we will be able to maintain our roads without the e-toll system,” Makhura said.
There were other ways of building, maintaining and upgrading roads, he said; “for instance, the Gauteng government has been able to upgrade and rehabilitate our provincial road network of more than 5000km that have no e-tolls.
“We can and will find alternative ways of expanding and maintaining our road network without e-tolls. E-tolls have no future in Gauteng,” Makhura said.
He also revealed his plans to rename one of Gauteng’s national roads, the R59, after Helen Suzman, a lone former Liberal Party Member of Parliament, the forerunner of the DA.
The R55 road is expected to be renamed after PAC founding student leader Philip Ata Kgosana while the R20 is due to be named after Saso leader, Robben Islander and Azapo leader Muntu Myeza.
The N12 is expected to be renamed after Rivonia Triallist Ahmed Kathrada while Ben Schoeman Highway will be renamed after SACP stalwart Moses Kotane.
William Nicol Drive will soon become Winnie Madikizela Mandela Drive - pending approval of the National Geographic Names Council and Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa.