Dashiki Dialogues: Wouldn’t a levy be a more fitting toll?

2013-12-10 10:00

This letter should start with a profane word against e-tolls and the ANC-led government.

Instead, I will invoke the words of one Zwelinzima Vavi, the embattled general secretary of Cosatu who’s libido may have led him astray to the advantage of those pushing for urban tolling in Gauteng.

Vavi’s pronouncements were clear: “We say to the ANC: on this issue, you’re wrong.” But that ship has sailed and e-tolling is now law.

Interestingly, though, Vavi went further and promised “we will make e-tolling unworkable like we did to apartheid”.

The chattering classes cheered him on in support, but I doubt whether they fully understood the implications of Vavi’s apartheid analogy.

I say this after observing an apparent dissipation in the public’s stance against urban tolling.

There are reports that people have started buying e-tags in droves.

Last week, a colleague confessed to having bought one because, as she put it, “the government knows where to find us. It has our addresses”. She is not alone in this.

People seem to lack what Wayne Duvenage, chairperson of Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance, called civic courage.

It’s as though they thought corrupt bureaucrats were going to just roll over and give up on their tolling idea.

Others are simply refusing to buy e-tags and drive on the tolled highways, but that’s not an authentic act of protest.

All cars that pass through any gantry will be tolled and billed. Having an e-tag only means the motorist will pay less than a motorist without one.

A real act of protest would be refusing to comply altogether, even with the threat of prosecution – use the highway and refuse to pay.

If a law is unjust, the citizenry has a duty to defy it.

After all, simple logic says there are other ways for us as citizens to pay for the improved highways we enjoy.

Consider an argument made by some experts. The government’s budget revenue for 2013/14 is R985.7?billion.

The fuel levy accounts for 5.2% – about R51?billion.

We all pay a fuel levy of about R2.12 a litre for petrol and R1.97 for diesel. If we raised that by 10% nationally – about 20c a litre – we would contribute an additional R5?billion a year.

If the levy contribution were raised only in Gauteng – where the tolls are – it would generate an extra R3.1?billion, about 60% of the national amount.

If we work in a 5% administration expense to the Gauteng-only levy scenario, an extra fuel levy of 20c a litre would still generate R2.95?billion in revenue.

This would be more than enough to pay off the exorbitant R20?billion cost of the roads in 10 years.

But now we are giving the Austrians our money. Why?

This dialogue suggests our government wears a logic-resistant dashiki with corrupt intent.

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