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For whom the e-tolls bell

23 February 2012, 14:39
Dear Editor,

Notwithstanding the pronouncements by various elements of civil society to continue with protest action against the Gauteng e-tolls, I regard Finance Minister Gordhan's comments as both a genuine concession to motorists, and a clear indication that the e-tolls are a fait accompli.

I remain guarded in my appreciation of this gesture, until such time as SANRAL demonstrates that it is a reputable organisation, able to stand up to the scrutiny applicable to all other state enterprises.

For starters, I have a grave concern that SANRAL will regard Mr Gordhan's R5-billion as a grant, able to be utilised as they see fit. Ergo to be splurged on motor vehicles for executives, plush office furnishings and equipment, and luxurious lekgotlas in the bush. Or Europe. This is the ANC way. The only way that this money will not be wasted is if Treasury settles SANRAL's creditors directly. We can but hope.

Secondly, I have reservations about SANRAL's ability to communicate with its customers. Like Gautrain, SANRAL is now the owner of a multi-billion rand asset. Bombela, as the operator of Gautrain, is particularly effective at communicating issues on radio programs, in the press, and on its website. SANRAL, on the other hand, is magnificently inept at keeping its customers informed. When will the R24/N12 sections of the GFIP be completed? When will the defective sections of the N1 be repaired? Why are banks of freeway lights kept on during the day, and others switched off at night? Motorists, as the funders of SANRAL's R20-billion folly, deserve better.

Finally, moving into the future, what safeguards are there that SANRAL will not return to its unilateral, bullying ways, with arbitrary price increases designed to restore the revised business case of 40c/km, or, God forbid, the original 66c/km one?

In my view, this matter is not over.
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