While e-tolls should rightfully be found unconstitutional and impractical, the need for maintenance of our roads is requiring more funds. Whilst SANRAL does have a big enough budget for this, the need for consensus and alternative funding far outweighs the political ammunition and outright opposition we see today. Funding new roads comes from a large budget made from various taxes. Such revenue, if managed correctly should cover the costs, if not it is up to SANRAL to prove it and if valid a decent alternative must be used. The South African consumer is under far too much pressure, however, poor quality roads could be more damaging. Surely during the countless court cases, evidence of an honest lack of funding has been revealed and if not, why not?
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA campaign) needs to focus on finding alternatives and finding where SANRAL is going wrong instead of fighting the court case whether it is through forensic investigation, PAIA applications or any other means possible, as the leader of the fight against tolling, they need a more constructive and analytic approach apart from the court room drama. We need to find solutions to funding our road infrastructure and whilst the answer is most likely in rectifying a crisis in government and SANRAL itself, we cannot simply oppose it without substantial backing and a fight mentality. If SANRAL had legitimate reasons for tolling they would have/should have ended the feud by highlighting them and investigating alternatives, therefore the case is weak and we are at an impasse.
The irony of the DA opposition to tolling is that the Western Cape government have managed to push through a controversial toll system on the prestigious Chapman’s Peak drive, this will deter local and international tourism (to a lesser extent) but brings the question of whether tolling in any form is here to stay. Whilst Chapman’s Peak drive may have a lesser effect, one must question the Western Cape government motives and whether they can or cannot afford not to have the toll. It is great that Ian Ollis (DA Transport MP) has joined the fight with great effort but it should not be a fight and both SANRAL and civil society need to reach an agreement, SANRAL must prove they are putting in the effort.
If SANRAL is insistent on e-tolls, they need to prove to every South African, that they are capable of efficient financial management and that the current budget is truthfully inadequate. Then and only then must we divert our attention to alternatives.
They need to explain the exorbitant levies on fuel and what has happened with their current budget besides being spent on a dragged out court case and many media campaigns. There is no use for petty politics in this debacle. There is no point in the current baseless court case and the entire campaign needs a shake up to become more transparent and more budget friendly. Roads are critical for our country and their maintenance is of utmost importance, lets find an alternative or more efficient mechanism as e-tolling is not the way forward.
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