Johannesburg - Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s late night tweets over the e-tolls saga sparked a Twitter war between him, Gauteng Premier David Makhura and members of the provincial executive on Friday night.
Makhura was backed by members of his executive, including Human Settlements MEC Lebohang Maile and Infrastructure Development MEC Tasneem Motara, as a fierce debate exploded on social media over the contentious e-tolls saga.
Mboweni, who in past months had somewhat elevated his Twitter clout with his infamous cooking pictures, sparked the debate on Thursday night when he insisted “users must pay”, in a tweet directed specifically to Makhura.
“So, when you invest in a toll road infrastructure, you expect a return for many years ahead as per contract. Right? Not the cost of your investment today. Future returns. That is what you do in business. Premier Makhura, correct? Or am I missing something here?
“In fact, before I plant avocados today, I should do so knowing that I will harvest in ten years’ time or so. I need certainty that the policy environment will be supportive of my long term investment as an avocado farmer. Policy uncertainty stops bold risk taking investment.
“Now, therefore, the user must pay Premier Makhura,” tweeted Mboweni on Thursday night.
His tweets appeared to have been sparked by Makhura’s comments during his State of the Province Address this week, where the premier reiterated his stance that e-tolls were not part and parcel of the future he envisaged for Gauteng.
“Our position has not changed. We remain determined to ensure that e-tolls are not part of the future of our province,” Makhura said.
“We’re even prepared to contribute something as the provincial government to ensure the e-tolls are scrapped. There is no turning back,” he said.
Motorists reportedly owed the SA National Roads Agency more than R10.9billion in unpaid e-toll fees.
In a clapback to Mboweni, Makhura came out fighting on Friday night and accused the finance minister of butting in on matters which did not concern him.
“I have referred the e-tolls matter to President Cyril Ramaphosa for final resolution; my engagements (with) him and Minister Fikile Mbalula have been positive. Minister Tito Mboweni can continue to tweet as he cooks; he is a minister, not the president, #NoTurningBack,” tweeted Makhura.
I have referred the e-tolls matter to [email protected] for final resolution; My engagements him and Minister @MbalulaFikile have been positive. Minister @tito_mboweni can continue to tweet as he cooks; he is a Minister, not the President. #NoTurningBack— David Makhura (@David_Makhura) July 5, 2019
Makhura was supported by Motara and Maile, who said the ANC in Gauteng was clear on their position about e-tolls.
“Tito Mboweni don’t provoke and disrespect us, you are ill-discipline and obsessed with yourself. We are not scared of you, bring it on. We will defeat you with your neo-liberal tendencies. You are doing what the NEC cautioned us not do,” tweeted Maile.
“The battle on e-tolls is not the premier’s battle, you are declaring war with ANC branches and the people of Gauteng. You should be careful not to declare war with the people, you will lose, don’t think you are untouchable,” Maile continued.
In a subsequent tweet, Maile said it was not a matter of 'ANC vs ANC', and said it was a matter of ‘ANC vs Tito’ as they were articulating party positions.
“There is an ANC conference resolution. If he holds a different view, he must raise it within structures, not on Twitter. We don’t have a problem of engaging him constructively, but he can’t threaten us about powers of minister of finance. He is occupying that position at our behest,” tweeted Maile.
@tito_mboweni don’t provoke and disrespect us you are ill-discipline and obsessed with yourself we are not scared of you bring it on. We will defeat you with your Neo-liberal tendencies @lupingcayisa @MYANC you are doing what the NEC cautioned us not do— Lebogang Maile (@LebogangMaile1) July 5, 2019
Motara also weighed in, reflecting on her phone call with the minister.
“I just got a call from the minister of finance. We had a good back and forth on the e-tolls issue. He stubbornly stands by his position, and well so do we as the PEC. He has agreed to wait for the invite to the PEC meeting, where we will enlighten each other,” she tweeted.
I just got a call from @tito_mboweni Min of Finance. We had a good back and forth on the E-Toll issue. He stubbornly stands by his position, and well so do we as the PEC. He has agreed to wait for the invite to the PEC meeting where we will enlighten each other @David_Makhura— #RotiQueen (@TasneemMotara) July 5, 2019
Mboweni showed no signs of letting up on the matter, as he warned Makhura to be careful about who he picked his battles with.
“I am certain that the Premier of Gauteng knows that you have to be careful before you pick up a fight with a National Minister of Finance. The one who controls allocations. I would be careful if I were him. User or consumer pays,” he insisted.
I am certain that the Premier of Gauteng knows that you have to be careful before you pick up a fight with a National Minister of Finance. The one who controls allocations! I would be careful if I were him. USER /CONSUMER PAYS!— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) July 5, 2019
He also threatened to reduce the allocation of government structures which owed Eskom billions.
“As a matter of prudent financial management, those national, provincial and local authorities, who owe Eskom, should be top sliced when the Division of Revenue is done. You owe Eskom, I reduce your allocations. Period,” said Mboweni.
As a matter of prudent financial management, those national,provincial and local authorities, who owe Eskom,should be top sliced when the Division of Revenue is done. You owe Eskom, I reduce your allocations. Period!— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) July 5, 2019
And as a parting shot, Mboweni insisted the e-tolls issue was not a working class problem, but rather a problem for the middle and upper classes.
“I don’t know why the middle and upper classes in Gauteng want to complicate our lives. The working class do not pay e-tolls, public transport, hello,” he tweeted.
I don’t know why the middle and upper classes in Gauteng want to complicate our lives. The working class do not pay e-tolls!! Public transport! Hello..— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) July 5, 2019
The Sunday Independent