By Matthew le Cordeur
Cape Town – A private member bill was gazetted on 15 December that proposes amendments to a roads act that will ensure Sanral can’t impose toll roads without consent from its local authority.
This follows road agency Sanral’s contentious e-toll system in Gauteng and its failed Cape Winelands toll route in the Western Cape.
The bill, tabled by Democratic Alliance MP Manny de Freitas, will impose a duty on Sanral to identify an alternative route to every road declared a toll road.
It will also compel Sanral to consult with the premier of a province and the municipal council before declaring a national road a toll road, and to provide for matters connected therewith, De Freitas said in the gazette.
The South African National Roads Agency Limited and National Roads Amendment Bill aims to amend The South African National Roads Agency Limited and National Roads Act, 1998 (Act No 7 of 1998).
This is “in order to address the public outcry that arose as a result of the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (e-toll),” the proposal said.
“As the public consultation process on that project was not conducted to the satisfaction of the public, there is a need to strengthen consultation with the premier of a province and the municipal council wherein the road to be tolled lies by requiring a majority vote in favour of the proposed declaration in the relevant provincial legislature.
“Furthermore, the bill seeks to require that an alternative road to every toll road be identified and continuously maintained to allow those who may not be able to afford the tolls to reach their desired destination.
“What this bill seeks to do is to place further checks and balances on the declaration of a toll road and by making certain that an alternative and affordable route is available to ensure that the general public is not further financially burdened by the declaration of a toll road.”
The amendment, if voted into law, would require a majority vote in the relevant provincial legislature in favour of the proposal, before Sanral could act.
Section 27 is amended to require that when applying for the minister’s approval for the declaration of a toll road, in addition to the report on the comments and representations, Sanral must forward to the minister a report on an economic viability assessment, an environmental impact assessment and the consultations conducted.
“In that report, the agency must indicate the extent to which any matters raised in those comments, representations, assessments and consultations have been accommodated in those proposals.
“The bill further requires that before a road can be declared a toll road, the premier in whose province the road proposed as a toll road is situated must provide 30 days after the consultation process for objections against the proposed declaration to be filed in his or her office.
“The premier must also call for a referendum if a threshold of 55% and above objections against the proposed declaration is received. The referendum must be called within six weeks so that interested persons in that province may vote on such declaration. The outcome of that referendum must be reported to the minister.”
The proposals come as Sanral battles to overcome years of tolling headaches.
Sanral dramatically amended e-toll fees in Gauteng in 2015 and gave further concessions for NGOs and people with disabilities to be exempt from paying fees in 2016. Taxis and buses were originally exempt from fees.
However, Outa claims the system is a failure and says most road users boycott paying fees, despite attempts by Sanral to appeal to motorists to pay.
In the Western Cape, Sanral in August appealed a judgment over the right to toll the N1 and the N2 highways at the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The judgment had been in favour of the City of Cape Town. On September 30 last year, the Western Cape High Court reviewed and set aside approvals that would enable Sanral to go ahead with tolling on those highways in the Winelands district.
This week, Outa laid criminal charges against former Sanral CEO Nazir Alli over the Cape Winelands tolling project.
The charge arises out of the sworn statement made by Alli in the dispute between the City of Cape Town and Sanral over Alli’s handling of the proposed tolling of national roads in the Western Cape, Outa said in a statement on Monday.
The charges were laid by social worker John Clarke, who has been campaigning for Sanral to not toll the planned Wild Coast route in the Eastern Cape.
While Outa has laid charges against Alli, it has praised new Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma’s mission of balancing the national roads agency’s funding portfolio with fuel tax-based revenue as well as toll income.
Macozoma said in a statement this week that he was engaging with South Africans to achieve a balanced funding portfolio with fuel tax-based revenue and toll income.
“The agency will pursue fresh engagements with relative provincial and municipal governments to ensure that road infrastructure planning is integrated and that Sanral programmes contribute to regional and local social and economic development,” he said.
“We will explore progressive strategies to pursue partnerships with the private sector and civil society to ensure successful national road infrastructure development over the medium to long term.”
Private member bills mostly fall flat in Parliament as the majority African National Congress are able to vote against the motions.
The DA said interested parties and institutions are invited to submit written representations on the draft bill to the secretary to Parliament within 45 days of the publication of this notice. Representations can be delivered to the Secretary to Parliament, Old Assembly Building, Parliament Street, Cape Town or mailed to the Secretary to Parliament, P O Box 15, Cape Town 8000 or e-mailed to [email protected] and copied to [email protected].