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The History of E-tolls in South Africa

13 December 2012, 13:11

Up until the end of 1891 several bridges and transport roads had been erected.  A suggestion by the  “Gouvernements Ingenieur en Architect” (Government Engineer and Architect) led to the decision by the “Tweede Volksraad” on 12 June 1891 to erect some tollgates in the following places:  At Volksrust, on the border between the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and Natal; at Standerton at the Kruger’s Bridge across the Vaal River; at Heidelberg at the bridge across the Blesbokspruit; at Potchefstroom at both bridges across the Mooi River; on the farm Shoemansrust at the bridge on the road from Pretoria to Rustenburg; at Johannesburg on the roads leading to the Vaal River, Potchefstroom/Krugersdorp, Pretoria and Boksburg; at Zesmylspruit at the Wierda Bridge and at Daspoort to the northwest of Pretoria.

Tolling at the tollgates mentioned commenced at midnight on 30 November 1891.  It was the intention at that stage to erect more tollgates in strategic places as road conditions were improving and the rest of the bridges, which were in the planning, design or building stages, were being completed. Proceeds from the tolls would contribute greatly toward reducing the erection and maintenance costs of roads and bridges.

From 1 February 1892, tolls were also introduced at the Eloffs Bridge across the Wilge River, from 1 March at the farm Geduld on the road to the Middelburg coal fields, from 15 March at the Du Toits Bridge across the Olifants River and from 1 May at the Wonderboompoort to the north of Pretoria.

Many complaints were received regarding the erection of tollgates, which led to the “Tweede Volksraad” on 17 June 1892 deciding to suspend the tolls for a year; a decision which was endorsed by the “Eerste Volksraad”.  From the end of August 1892 all tolls were temporarily suspended.  In the meantime, problems which were experienced during the erection of tollgates would be addressed.

During the nine months in which the tolls were in operation, the income was £17 724.11.9, while £458.4.10 was spent in erection fees.

On 12 August 1893 the “Tweede Volksraad” decided to charge tolls again and 27 sites were selected as ideal tolling sites after the problems around the placement of the tolls had been investigated thoroughly during the previous year.  The new toll fees would be charged from 1 January 1894.    During the course of this year some of the 27 tolls were suspended, while others were erected for the first time and others were moved to more appropriate sites.  A Revised Toll Act came into operation from 1 October 1894.

After the tolls remained in operation in 1895 and the following year, it was finally suspended as from 31 December 1896 following a decision by the Volksraad.  The toll booths, tariff notice boards, booms and other materials were sold at public auction early in 1897.

Not only was the toll system and important source of income to the Government for a number of years, but the administration and maintenance of the system also provided jobs to many people for a considerable amount of time.  However, the system was not popular with the wide travelling population.  The good intentions with the implementation of the tolls were worthy of praise and above suspicion.  The implementation and maintenance of the tolls were an important contribution by the Head of Public Works and his staff to the finances of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek.

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