Idea to can e-tolls for fuel levy rejected

2014-09-21 15:00

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Gauteng’s e-tolls will not be replaced with a fuel levy after the country’s other eight provinces overwhelmingly rejected this idea, saying they will not be made to pay for excellent roads when theirs are in a bad state.

The provinces also rejected a proposal that the national government should take over the funding of improvements to Gauteng highways.

In terms of this proposal, instead of the current user-pay principle, the money that the Treasury ring-fences for the improvement of all national roads would be used to help settle the massive R20?billion debt incurred as a result of the upgrading of Gauteng’s highways.

The issue of e-tolls came up at a meeting between the national minister of transport and all other transport MECs two weeks ago.

Those at the meeting said Gauteng transport MEC Ismail Vadi was given a tough time by his counterparts – especially those from poorer provinces – who argued that replacing e-tolls with a national fuel levy would amount to taxing citizens of their own provinces for roads they do not enjoy.

Free State transport MEC Butana Komphela, who led the charge against Gauteng at the meeting, told City Press yesterday they had rejected almost all proposals put on the table for the funding of improvements to Gauteng’s freeways.

“We cannot be funders of the beautiful roads in Gauteng when our roads are dongas. Our people in villages and farms that are going to pay the petrol levy are not using those roads that look like they are in heaven. Must we pay as a collective punishment for the beautiful roads in Gauteng?” Komphela said.

He was happy to pay e-tolls when he is in Gauteng and driving on its highways.

“I will pay when I’m in Gauteng. But you can’t make me or anyone else pay for the roads in Gauteng that we have not used,” he said.

Western Cape transport MEC Donald Grant is said to have reminded Gauteng at the meeting that it was already benefiting from the Gautrain, which the Treasury subsidises to the tune of billions every year.

Vadi’s office referred all queries to the national department of transport when contacted this week.

National transport spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso refused to comment, saying discussions that took place at the meeting with provincial MECs were confidential.

Gauteng is undertaking a controversial review of the e-tolls, a move that has pitted it against roads agency Sanral and the national department of transport.

The issue of e-tolls has also divided the ANC’s top six, with secretary-general Gwede Mantashe supporting the policy while his deputy, Jessie Duarte, opposes it.

Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the province was waiting for the review panel to conclude its work and present its recommendations before deciding what strategy to adopt about the future of e-tolls and how best to fund highway upgrades.

“I can’t say ‘yes, we want a fuel levy’ or ‘no, we don’t’.

“The panel has to present its report. What we are concerned with is that the panel must conclude its work,

and present its findings and recommendations to the premier and the [executive committee] so they can decide the way forward,” Masebe said

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