Blade Nzimande. Picture: Ntswe Mokoena/DOC/GCIS

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) says it has been left baffled by Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande’s insistence that e-tolls won’t be scrapped for now.
In March, Nzimande said the “disastrous e-tolls” scheme could no longer be dragged out and a solution was needed to be considered by Cabinet.

However, on Thursday evening, speaking on SABC News, Nzimande said he was reluctant to pull the plug on the e-tolls scheme because he wanted e-tolls to pay for the R67billion that was required for the South African National Roads Agencies (Sanral) debt.

“I want to be honest with you we understand the public sentiment, but at the same time we have another problem that many people do not want to deal with” he told the SABC.

“We owe an amount in today’s terms of R67bn. That’s the amount we owe on the building of these wonderful freeways. The issue is who is going to pay and how are we going to pay?” he asked.

Speaking to the Saturday Star yesterday, Outa’s transport portfolio manager Rudie Heyneke said he was left stumped by the minister’s latest comments. “Minister Nzimande is sending out confusing messages to the public,” said Heyneke.

“In March he acknowledged that the system had collapsed. In April, the president’s spokesperson said that e-tolls are high on the president’s agenda and there needs to be a definite answer as soon as possible.

“Premier Makhura has acknowledged that e-tolls failed and the ANC Gauteng passed a resolution in July to scrap e-tolls. These are mixed signals sent out to the public and will definitely not encourage the public to start paying now.”

Heyneke said there was no way e-tolls would survive. “We do not agree that e-tolls are set to stay. With an ever declining compliance rate and debt claims prescribing daily, we cannot see how e-tolls will survive.”

Heyneke said the organisation was also shocked at Sanral’s R67bn debt. According to Hansard, the official record of proceedings in Parliament, then minister of transport Joe Maswanganyi told Parliament on November 29 last year that the debt was up to R48bn.

During his interview on Thursday however, Nzimande alleged that Sanral’s debt now amounted to R67bn. “How did this shoot up R19bn to R67bn in nine months?” asked Heyneke.

“We do not know where the minister got his figures from These figures are questionable.”

Nzimande stated in a written reply to Parliament last month that Sanral was pursuing 6071 cases of unpaid e-tolls in the magistrate’s courts and high courts, but did not specify the legal costs.

“The Sanral financial reports that will be released soon will give the public more clarity on Sanral’s debts for the past financial year,” said Heyneke.

The Saturday Star