Over a decade in the making…e-tolls finally scrapped

Motorists in Gauteng will be breathing a collective sigh of relief after Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi confirmed, “We are now ready to start a new life without e-tolls in Gauteng”. This clarity comes in the wake of pronouncements made by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana in his mid-term budget policy statement. Godongwana announced National Treasury will on board 70% of SANRAL’s debt while the Gauteng provincial government will cover the remaining 30%. Godongwana said “…the costs of maintaining the 201 kilometres and associated interchanges of the roads and any additional investment in road will be funded through either the existing electronic toll infrastructure or new toll plazas, or any other revenue source within their area of responsibility.” But any confusion over whether future funding models would include e-tolling has been put to bed by Lesufi. BizNews correspondent Michael Appel spoke to Automobile Association spokesperson Layton Beard in the wake of the announcement. Meanwhile, Wayne Duvenage from the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse – OUTA – says this is the culmination of the biggest civil disobedience campaign in the country’s democratic history. – Michael Appel

Excerpts from interview with AA spokesperson Layton Beard

Layton Beard on what Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s comments mean

I think, effectively, it means that e-tolls have been scrapped. There’s no way back from that. The mechanism to collect money through e-tolls is effectively no more. There was an SMS that was sent to registered users [of e-tolls] late this afternoon in which it said pronouncements on e-tolls had been made. That’s obviously referring to the fact that it has been scrapped. They also said the impact on your Sanral account will be communicated to you soonest. And that means, in our minds that, people are going to be told that any outstanding money that is owed to Sanral will not be collected or pursued any more. That’s another very positive development we need to look forward to now. We know that the system has failed and government has acknowledged it has failed by scrapping it effectively. We now need to look at how roads are going to be funded and how development is going to be funded for road infrastructure going into the future. That remains for us a very key consideration as we mull over and digest what happened in Parliament this afternoon for everyone’s benefit.

On the clarity given on the issue following Lesufi’s tweet

Whomever wants to take credit for dealing the death knell [that up to them], we are looking at the system in totality and the fact that it’s been scrapped is important. We made various submissions. We’ve spoken very publicly and vocally about our opposition, as have motorists by not paying. Less than 20% of people were complying with that system. So at the end of the day this has been a victory for motorists. We’re just very happy that sanity has prevailed eventually. People not need to not be pursued for their debt. People who have paid money need to get money back. We would want to see a mechanism where people can can actually apply to get money back that they’ve paid over the years.

Picture: Jonathon Rees

Excerpt from statement released by OUTA chief executive Wayne Duvenage

[Read OUTA’s statement in full here]

Duvenage on whether this is the end of e-tolls

The 2022 mid-term budget policy statement by Minister Godongwana signals that it is the end of e-tolls. He has made it very clear that Treasury will be allocating funds to offset the GFIP bonds that SANRAL had taken out and were government guaranteed. Essentially government has now adopted the strategy and the policy that OUTA had proposed over ten years ago. So all it leaves now is for the Department of Transport, the Minister and Sanral to declare the Gauteng freeways as non-tolled roads. And once that happens it’s the formal end. But anybody who’s paying their e-toll bills from today onwards is wasting their money. This is formally the end of e-tolls. It is something that society can celebrate. This is the biggest civil disobedience campaign introduced in our new democracy, and it is one that sends a very clear message to government. If you’re going to introduce complex and expensive and irrational policies in future, you do so at your own peril if you do not get the buy-in of the public.

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