Will Gauteng scrap e-tolls? No clear plan set out in Makhura's SOPA

The Gauteng government is willing to help settle billions of rands of e-toll debt, Premier David Makhura said on Monday during his State of the Province Address. 

He was speaking at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus, where he reiterated his stance on the scrapping of the e-toll system. However, he didn't set out any clear plans about how it would be done.

Makhura insisted the province could not sustain the electronic toll collection system, adding that e-tolls remained on his radar following a resolution that was taken at the Gauteng ANC conference in July 2018. The party resolved that e-tolls must be scrapped. Makhura reiterated this message in October when he spoke in Germiston.

The provincial government has approached the national government about scrapping the system.

"Our position has not changed. We remain determined to ensure that e-tolls are not part of the future of our province. We anxiously await the finalisation of details by national government on the mechanics of settling the debt. We are even prepared to contribute something as the provincial government to ensure the e-tolls are scrapped. There is no turning back," he said.

The contentious system was one of the central points of debate during this year's election campaign in the province.

ANC at odds over e-tolls

The ANC's leadership has been at odds about finding a solution to the issue.

The Gauteng ANC has been advocating for the dissolution of the system. However, in March, Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni said he was unhappy about the decision of the board of the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) to temporarily suspend summonses to recover e-toll debt. He said this should be reversed "immediately".

Last year, Sanral collected R5.6bn less than budgeted, partly, due to the government's lack of clarity on e-tolls, Fin24 reported. 

In August, Treasury's deputy director general, Dr Mampho Modise, reported to Parliament that the roads agency struggled to raise the R20.6bn budgeted e-toll revenue. 

Economy based SOPA

Makhura detailed how the government was going to boost the economy and create jobs through investment.

He said joint sector-based initiatives between the government and business were beginning to unlock the growth and job-creation potential of different regional economies or corridors.

"This is a social compact in action. Over the next five years, we will introduce special economic zones where feasible and necessary, to add momentum towards turning Gauteng city region into a single, multi-tier and integrated special economic zone."

He mentioned five priority clusters which his government would focus on over the next five years. These are: 

  • economy, jobs and infrastructure;
  • education, skills revolution and health;
  • integrated human settlements and land release;
  • safety, social cohesion and food security; and
  • building a capable, ethical and developmental state. 

Township economy

The Gauteng government has also promised to speed up the payment of service providers from 30 days to 15 days to boost their sustainability. 

"Accordingly, I challenge all of you to work with us to support the promulgation of the new Gauteng Township Economy Development Act which will make it easier, affordable and quicker to register, open and operate a business in a township. Gone are the days when township businesses will be harassed by government and police. Government needs to create an enabling framework," he said. 

The province will also use R60bn of its infrastructure budget to drive its agenda for job creation, economic empowerment and spatial transformation, the premier said.

The budget, he said, would be used to improve access to water, sanitation, electricity, housing and roads in deprived areas, as well as facilitating the creation of 100 000 jobs in the construction sector and empower 50 emerging black firms as contractors and sub-contractors. 

Youth unemployment

Makhura promised to employ 500 000 young people through the government's Tshepo 1 Million programme. 

He promised to implement government policy on the abolishment of the experience requirement for entry-level jobs in the public service to ensure an increase in youth employment "to deal with attrition and growth opportunities in some areas of the public service".

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