E-toll postponement a ‘significant victory’

2012-01-14 07:40

The postponement of the introduction of electronic tolling on Gauteng roads was welcomed by trade unions, political parties, civil rights groups and the Automobile Association.

AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel said yesterday the decision had shown how effective protests by civil society organisations could be. AfriForum’s lawyers would still fight the proposed toll fees in court, as the decision did not constitute a final victory.

“We are convinced that AfriForum’s planned legal action against the new toll roads could place added pressure on the government to abandon its plans to charge toll fees,” Kriel said.

Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) spokesperson Patrick Craven said the postponement was a “significant victory” for millions of Gauteng residents who had expressed opposition to the attempt to force them to pay to travel on the province’s highways.

The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) announced earlier in the day that e-tolling had been placed on hold following its meeting on Thursday with Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele.

SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) spokesperson Mamokgethi Rea Molopyane said the postponement was a victory for the poor and working class.

Democratic Alliance spokesperson Neil Campbell said the system was “unjust” and would have failed because of boycotts.

The justice system would have failed to cope with the huge volume of prosecutions of motorists who refused to pay the toll fees, he added.

AA spokesperson Gary Ronald said using the existing fuel tax to supplement the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, instead of the tolls, would prevent serious financial damage being done to the province.

The project’s first phase cost R20 billion to complete. Most of this cost was financed from loans.

Sanral announced this week that 212 000 e-toll accounts had been registered for the first phase of the controversial project. These e-toll tags would have become operational at the Bakwena toll plaza from February.

On Friday Sanral chairperson Tembakazi Mnyaka said it was decided at Thursday’s meeting that Sanral would investigate further and produce a report for Ndebele which would then be presented to Cabinet. Sanral’s board intended exploring different avenues to meet its obligations.

Light motor vehicles using Gauteng’s toll roads would have been charged R0.40/km, medium vehicles R1/km, “longer” vehicles R2/km, and bikers R0.24/km. Qualifying commuter taxis and buses would have been exempted entirely.

Cosatu said it would continue to urge motorists not to register with Sanral or to buy e-tags.

“Our members remain mobilised for a campaign of mass action if the decision is reversed,” said Craven.

The DA said it was “not surprised” by Sanral’s decision, as the agency had not done its homework and there had been insufficient public consultation.

Satawu called on the government to make public transport a priority, instead of “being obsessed with elite projects that enriched a few at the expense of the majority”.

A number of petitions were handed to Ndebele, including one from the Freedom Front, and a joint petition from Cosatu, the SA National Civic Organisation, the SA National NGO Coalition, Satawu and the DA.
 

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