Zuma bows to e-toll pressure

2013-09-29 10:01

Government officials reveal president’s decision was taken long before Outa went to court.

President Jacob Zuma signed ­­e-tolls into law this week because he was “under pressure” from the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and politicians from his own party.

Two senior government officials told City Press the decision to sign the Transport Laws and Related ­Matters Amendment Bill was taken long before the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) went to court to oppose its implementation.

One senior official, who was involved in the interministerial committee on e-tolling, chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, said e-tolling’s implementation was always something of a forgone conclusion.

“By embarking on another consultation, government wanted to show that it was listening to the objections on the bill. But the die was cast long ago, when (Sanral) signed the contracts and borrowed money with government guarantees,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

He said Sanral's chief executive, Nazir Alli, had gone as far as canvassing Luthuli House to ensure the bill was approved when it reached ­Parliament and the National Council of Provinces.

“Government has already come up with R5?billion from Treasury to ease the burden on motorists. The tariffs were decreased and public transport exempted. This was all owing to the public pressure. But the cost of not rolling out e-tolling would have been felt for years to come if the president did not sign it,” said the official.

Sanral’s credit rating was under threat of being downgraded further by ratings agency Moody’s, and this, said a second government official who is also a member of the ANC in Gauteng, threatened the borrowing power of other state parastatals.

“Zuma’s hands were tied. Government’s hands were tied. He was under pressure from Sanral – because it is a state entity, the government carries the risk of having other operations ­affected,” said the second source.

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona admitted there was pressure on the agency and other state parastatals to see the bill signed into law because it threatened their borrowing power, but rejected claims that Zuma ­himself was pressurised.

Mona also rejected Outa’s claim that Zuma ignored recommendations made by the presidential review committee on the restructuring of state-owned entities.

These suggested that “social infrastructure” like public roads should be funded on the existing tax model.

“Cabinet’s decision on e-tolling – and not a committee set up to review state-owned enterprises – prevails because that is government policy,” said Mona.

“Even if it was the case that the committee recommended that social infrastructure be funded through normal tax, government doesn’t have to accept that recommendation.

If Zuma had not signed the bill, ­Sanral would have become a “junk” ­agency, said Mona.

Outa chairperson Wayne Duvenage, whose organisation argued against e-tolling in the Supreme Court of Appeal this week, said he expected Sanral to roll out e-tolling by the end of November if the appeal ruling went against Outa.

Duvenage and labour federation Cosatu, which has called for an e-tolling boycott, insist the fight isn’t over.

Have you bought your e-tag?

City Press asked celebrities, politicians and ordinary South Africans for their opinions on e-tags and e-tolling.

Former Gauteng premier and Cope leader Mbhazima Shilowa

I will buy an e-tag because it is the law and I don’t promote lawlessness.

I am not in favour of e-tolling because Sanral decided to ignore our recommendations that before e-tolling is introduced, we need reliable public transport first.

DJ Cleo, Entertainer

I’m a taxpayer already and I pay a fuel levy every time I pour petrol into my car tank, but this money is not used as it should be used.

It will have a ripple effect for me because as a DJ I travel a lot for gigs.

For instance, I might travel to Limpopo on a Friday, come back the following day and hit the road for Durban before returning to Jozi.

It’s so unfair. If we pay for tolls now, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are paying for oxygen in 10 years.

Florence Masebe, Scandal actress

I don’t have an e-tag and I don’t care about e-tolls.

I’m too angry about a lot of things to spend my time thinking about small things like –e-tolls.

Bonang Matheba Top Billing presenter

It’s unfair that people were not consulted during the planning stages.

We have no choice but to buy the tag; if we don’t we will be in trouble.

Mfanelo Zondi Self- employed taxi driver

I won’t be buying an e-tag because I can’t afford it.

I don’t care what happens to me.

I will not buy an e-tag and I will continue using the roads until they arrest me.

I don’t want to be a lawbreaker, but we cannot accept e-tolling because if we do, government will do as it pleases.

Sarie Oosthuizen Librarian

I bought my e-tag under duress. I felt under pressure when I saw other colleagues buying them and I acquired one.

Now that I think about the history of e-tolling, the decision to implement it is totally unfair on motorists.

I will not display the e-tag on my windscreen, as expected. I still get monthly statements via email, which I promptly delete.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane

Although she wasn’t available for omment, the premier has been spotted in the corridors of the provincial legislature proudly brandishing her e-tag.

She’s also been encouraging people to do the right thing and buy theirs. – Xolani Mbanjwa and Ngwako Malatji

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