Scrap e-tolls, demands Gauteng ANC as repeated call falls on deaf ears

2019-02-16 22:43

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The ANC in Gauteng is not happy with its national leadership after the contentious e-tolls issue was left out of both the party’s January manifesto launch and in President Cyri Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address last week.

When the ANC in Gauteng first raised this at a national executive committee (NEC) meeting following the manifesto launch, it was told there was a plan to establish an infrastructure fund. This would be used to build more roads, railway lines, hospitals and schools in the country and might include addressing the issue of the user-pay highway system.

On Sunday there will be a special NEC meeting, where the endorsement of the party’s candidate lists for the national assembly and provincial legislatures will be discussed. News24 understands that while e-tolls is not on the NEC's agenda, it might be raised.

Unhappiness

The ANC in Gauteng marched to the union buildings last year, demonstrating its displeasure with the e-tolling system.

ANC Gauteng secretary Jacob Khawe admitted, in an interview with News24, just ahead of the SONA that the provincial leadership was not happy with e-tolls being left out of the election manifesto.

He also confirmed that it was raised during the last NEC meeting and at Gauteng’s own provincial executive lekgotla.

Motorists in South Africa’s economic hub owe the road agency SANRAL more than R11bn for driving on the province’s highways where upgrades and toll gantries have been installed.

Khawe said the Gauteng leadership had also discussed ways the e-toll saga could be brought to an end.

"Our Lekgotla said we didn’t have money to pay for Life Esidimeni. It was never budgeted for, but we had to close somewhere, there was some pain somewhere to pay this money," said Khawe.

The Life Esidimeni tragedy saw 144 psychiatric patients die after they were transferred from the institution to several unlicensed NGOs. Former deputy chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke ordered provincial government to compensate more than R1m to each family of those who died.

"We didn’t have money. But we didn’t get a request, we got a demand from the commission (to pay), so we had to close some things," he said referring to budgets and programmes.

Solutions

Khawe said the provincial leadership wanted to take this suggestion to national government to show it was also willing to assist in finding solutions to the growing e-tolls debt.

"Where we closed [budgets and programmes], people didn’t die, roads didn’t collapse, hospitals didn’t collapse so this means we can use that experience and demonstrate to national government that we don’t want etolls and here is our contribution," continued Khawe.

He also said that the province was told that there would be an inter-ministerial committee, where it could present this proposal.

Calls, however, to the presidency for more information on this yielded no results as Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko referred News24 to the transport ministry.

Attempts to get answers from the transport department also came up short, with its spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi and acting director general Manqoba Bengu not answering calls or responding to messages.

Scrap e-tolls

Former president Jacob Zuma had previously set up a task team looking into tolls and even tasked Ramaphosa, who was then his deputy with finding a way to decrease the cost of the tolls. However, none of the solutions put forward have pleased residents in Gauteng.

The ANC’s continued decline at the polls in the province has previously been blamed on its inability to address the issue of the tolls.

Khawe, who maintained that the ANC in the province was often expected to respond to national issues, said there was no viable alternative but to completely scrap e-tolls.

He said the user-pay system was part of the challenge of the rising cost of living faced by many in the province and country.

"The residents don’t want to hear anything about payments, they want them (e-tolls) scrapped,” he told News24.

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Read more on:    anc  |  johannesburg  |  politics  |  tolls
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