The newly appointed Deputy Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, has been accused of being disconnected from reality after stating that “for now, electronic tolls are in place” and that if motorists drive on toll roads, they have to pay.
Chikunga said during an eNCA interview: “You use the road that has a toll, you pay for it. You don’t use it, you don’t pay for it. It is as simple as all that.
“That is what the user payment principle means and that is what electronic tolls are all about. If you don’t want to pay the tolls, you use other roads because they are there ”.
He stressed that South Africa has to develop to evolve and referred to a Cape governor in 1700 who raised money for road infrastructure.
“It was then that people stopped on the road, as is happening in some of our neighboring countries.
“We have evolved. Now we have these schemes that we see on the roads where a boom door has to be opened.
“That’s development and then the technology is there and we said we collect it electronically. It’s the same system that started in the 1700s and is developing, ”he said.
Chikunga said the money from the toll roads will be used to maintain South Africa’s roads and ensure that they are globally to maintain the country’s 18th position in the world in terms of quality of national roads.
But Chikunga said that South Africa has to have money to maintain, develop, extend and expand its road infrastructure and this money will definitely not come from the treasury.
“No country is able to maintain its road infrastructure with the money raised by its national treasuries, as is the case in South Africa.
An ‘easy matter’ that has become complicated
“So, for me, it is such an easy matter that we have complicated it. It is something that has developed from 1700 and we are where we are now.
“We have to pay the money, the loan we made and we have to pay [repay] as a country, whether we like it or not.
“So there is nothing that has changed [about e-tolls] for now. If there are new announcements, they will be made, ”he said.
Read: More talk that a decision on electronic tolls is imminent
The executive director of the organization undoing the tax abuse (Outa), Wayne Duvenage, said that the vice minister of transport is “beating a drum that has been played for the last eight years since they launched electronic tolls in 2013.”
“She clearly seems unaware of the issues, not understanding the dynamics that have taken place over the past few years,” he said.
Duvenage added that Chikunga also made no sense in the context of Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula’s comments that he was seeking a “win-win” solution for the government and society for the electronic toll saga of the Improvement Project. Gauteng Highway (GFIP).
“We understand that it is new but someone has to sit it down … and update it, because it does not look good to the department when the deputy minister makes comments that do not make sense to society and simply create more distress,” he said.
The future of electronic tolls is still unknown
Mbalula said in an interview with eNCA in July that a final announcement on the future of electronic tolls was expected, not just in Gauteng but across the country, later that month.
“After July 19, you will receive our reply,” he said.
This followed Mbalula telling the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on May 6 that a government announcement on the future of electronic tolls would be made in the next two weeks.
Mbalula later said during his budget voting speech on May 21 that a government decision on the future of the electronic toll system is “imminent.”
Although Mbalula raised the expectation of an imminent decision on the future of electronic tolls on many other occasions, an announcement has yet to be made.
The long-pending decision on the future of electronic tolls dates back to July 2019, when President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Mbalula to head a task force, which also included then-finance minister Tito Mboweni and the prime minister. from Gauteng, David Makhura, to report before August 2019 on the options available for the future of electronic tolls.
The appointment of this task force was due to strong public resistance to electronic tolls and the low payment compliance rate for electronic tolls, which at that time was below 19%.
Subsequently, Mbalula said that he had presented nine possible solutions to the government to resolve the impasse of electronic tolls, the first of which is to “eliminate electronic tolls.”
However, Mbalula highlighted the financial commitments that have been made in terms of debt repayment to finance the GFIP and that the biggest problem for the government is not to eliminate electronic tolls, but to keep its position in the bond market up to par. . to its obligations through the electronic toll debt service.