E-tolls bill waiting for Zuma, Peters denies election link

2013-07-28 09:46

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Transport Minister Dipuo Peters says her department will forge ahead with its plans to implement e-tolling on Gauteng’s freeways once President Jacob Zuma has signed the tolling bill into law.

She denied that Zuma was delaying the signing of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill – which paves the way for the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to implement e-tolling on the province’s highways – because of next year’s elections. Tolling is unpopular in the province, and it is expected to be a major electoral issue. On Thursday, Zuma signed five bills into law but left out the transport bill.

Peters said the regulations were in place already, and that the department was waiting for Zuma.

“As the minister I am not informed about that (the delay due to elections). It (e-tolls) can come anytime this year,” she said.

Kapsch TrafficCom AG, the Austrian toll roads company, told its shareholders this month that its losses were because of the delays in the implementation of Gauteng’s tolls. It projected that it would rake in R669 million a year once tolling kicks in, but Sanral has denied that tolling revenue would go overseas.

Some see Peters’ move from the energy to the transport portfolio, following Zuma’s recent Cabinet reshuffle, as a poisoned chalice, given how unpopular e-tolling is. But she has dismissed this.

“As ministers in government we are individually and collectively responsible for carrying out our functions. I’d want to say that the decision about e-toll is not the individual minister’s decision. It is a decision of government.

“You say I am handed a poisoned chalice, but I am also having a bunch of roses because I arrive at a time when there is a decision about Prasa (Public Rail Agency of SA). We are not going to import them, we are going to build them in SA, create the necessary skills and the necessary jobs,” she said.

It is not clear why Zuma swapped her with her transport predecessor Ben Martins with barely a year to go before the next elections. Peters told City Press that she did not ask Zuma why as she has never asked why she is “deployed”.

She said there would be no policy changes in the department as she would use the remainder of her term to prepare a report on how the department had performed since Zuma had assumed power in 2009, and to hand it over to the next incumbent after the elections.

However, she said as the first female minister in the transport portfolio she is concerned about the poor representation of women in the department and the sector. She has ordered a gender audit, and wants women and young people to fill most of the department’s 36% vacant positions.

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