Government continues to dither on the future of e-tolls

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The future of the e-tolls scheme on Gauteng’s roads still remains unclear after government failed to make a pronouncement last week.

MTBPS

This is despite Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula last month saying that when Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivers the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), which took place last Thursday, he would pronounce on e-tolls.

The 2021 MTBPS document, however, only referred to policy uncertainty on government’s position on the user-pay policy on e-tolls.

And it seems like a final decision on the future of e-tolls has still not yet been taken by government.

“The matter of the funding of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, better known as e-tolls, is a matter Cabinet is currently seized with. A statement to this effect will be released once Cabinet has made the final decision,” Mbalula’s special advisor Lawrence Venkile told The Citizen on Tuesday.

ALSO READ: Promises, promises and more promises… An e-tolls story

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), meanwhile, has reiterated that government should accept that the e-tolls project has failed.

“Once again, the future of e-tolls is dodged although the MTBPS is the main budget policy document, but it quietly acknowledges that e-tolls are a failure by shifting R3.740 billion with the Transport vote from non-toll roads to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

“Treasury has been funding the e-toll shortfalls for seven years now but the gantries continue to charge motorists in this failed user-pays scheme,” Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage said.

The Automobile Association (AA) is also of the view that the e-tolls system, in its present form, will continue to fail as most motorists have taken a principled stand against making e-toll payments.

User-pay principle

Minister in The Presidency Mondli Gungubele, during a media briefing in September, insisted that government was in support of a user-pay policy on e-tolls.

“What I know is that there is an agreement… it’s a user-pay principle. The e-toll is a matter that is being dealt with by the minister [of transport] and the affected province, in particular Gauteng.

READ MORE: E-tolls vs SABC: User-pay principle only applies when govt wants it to

“Up until they complete their work on this [issue] I am able to to actually tell what is the future, but the user-pay principle is supported unequivocally by the government and the commitment to pay that when incurred,” the minister said.

Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma called on the government to “bite the bullet” and make a decision on e-tolls.

Meanwhile, Gauteng MEC for roads infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo reiterated that the official position of the provincial government on e-tolls remained that they should be scrapped.

‘Imminent decision’

In July, Mbalula indicated that a final announcement about the future of e-tolls, not only in Gauteng, but across the country, was expected later that month.

The long-outstanding decision on the future of e-tolls dates back to July 2019 when President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Mbalula to head a task team to report back to him on available option by of that year.

The task team also included then-finance minister Tito Mboweni and Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

Mbalula subsequently said he had presented nine possible solutions to the government to resolve the e-tolls impasse, the first of which is “to scrap the e-tolls”.

Additional reporting by Moneyweb

Source: citizen