E-tolls: How Cyril Ramaphosa cracked it

Cyril Ramaphosa
Cyril Ramaphosa

@City_Press

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa engineered a last-minute e-toll deal that has, in effect, ensured a flat rate for all Gauteng motorists – whether they have e-tags or not – to the chagrin of national transport and Treasury officials.

In a bid to please the ANC in Gauteng, which wanted more concessions on e-tolls, Ramaphosa rejected a proposal that would have seen the monthly cap on e-tolls for those with e-tags reduced from R450 to R390 and reduced rates per kilometre for those with e-tags.

But despite his efforts, the anger against e-tolls has increased among Gauteng motorists. They have remained defiant in the face of government threats that motorists with outstanding toll debts will not be able to renew their licence discs.

However, motorists who want to dodge e-toll payments by registering their cars in other provinces are in for a shock. New regulations that will allow other provinces to pick up their information are in the pipeline.

City Press has been informed by well-placed sources in the provincial ANC and national transport department that when the initial deal was first presented to the ANC’s top six officials at Luthuli House, ANC Gauteng chairperson Paul Mashatile objected, saying the concessions did not offer enough relief for Gauteng motorists.

At the time, Ramaphosa was in Indonesia attending the Asia-Africa Business Summit. Upon his return late last month, he met the technical team on e-tolls. The team comprised officials from Sanral, the national transport department, National Treasury and those from the Gauteng government.

Sources said it was at this meeting, which took place at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, where Ramaphosa insisted that the current deal – which has seen monthly caps reduced to R225 and all motorists, even those without e-tags, paying the same kilometre rates – be implemented.

A few officials on the team tried to object, saying such an agreement would be detrimental for Sanral, but Ramaphosa said it was a political decision and they had to accept it.

“He was getting agitated,” said a senior government source. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa confirmed that the meeting had taken place, but insisted he had pushed for the best deal, which involved compromises on both sides.

“The current deal in its form is a consequence of a multiple layer of discussions between national government and the provincial government, as well as at political level, and was finally approved by Cabinet.”

The ANC in Gauteng has been pushing hard against e-tolls with many in the province convinced that the issue led to the 10% decline in last year’s general elections. Last year, Gauteng Premier David Makhura announced that the province would set up a panel to review the impact of e-tolls on the province’s motorists. This led to a clash with national government, which insisted that Gauteng had no authority to review national policy.

In October, the ANC in the province resolved at its elective conference to reject e-tolls in their present form.

Ramaphosa was then tasked to intervene between the province and national government to find a workable solution. This was after Gauteng was informed by National Treasury that it would have to fund any shortfalls resulting from a reduction in e-toll rates.

A deal was finally arrived at after months of wrangling.

In terms of the initial deal, the monthly amount payable for e-tolls would have been R390, motorists with e-tags would pay a reduced rate and some passes under gantries would be free. National officials then pushed Gauteng to agree to the deal.

But Mashatile and his provincial executive pushed for more concessions. Sources who were at the Luthuli House meeting said Makhura seemed embarrassed when Mashatile rejected the deal being presented to ANC officials, who included President Jacob Zuma.

“Makhura was staring at the floor when Mashatile said no to the deal,” said the insider.

Those in the Gauteng ANC who were pushing for a total scrapping of e-tolls are said to be unhappy with Makhura, saying he had compromised too much.

Makhura’s spokesperson Thabo Masebe, who said he could not comment on meetings that took place at a political level, was adamant that the province had done all it could to lessen the e-toll burden on motorists.

“As the province, we are happy with the new dispensation as it addresses many of the key recommendations of the panel we set up. We believe this dispensation will mitigate the negative aspects identified by the panel. We have listened and we took action.”

National transport department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said the minister, Dipuo Peters, was working with all nine MECs to close any loopholes that might be related to e-tolls and traffic fines.

He said they were in the process of finalising regulations to ensure that those who have e-toll debts in Gauteng do not evade payment by registering their cars in other provinces.

A number of large insurance companies have said that they will not pay out claims if a driver with an expired license disc is involved in an accident.

THE TWO DEALS

DEAL ONE:
. E-tolls are retained, but not in their current form

. The monthly cap on e-tolls fees is reduced to R390

. Twenty free passes under gantries a year

. There are no flat tariffs (those with e-tags pay a reduced kilometre rate)

. Gauteng funds the expected shortfall of between R180 million and R450 million

RAMAPHOSA’S DEAL:
. E-toll system is retained but not in current form

. The standard tariff of 58c per kilometre for light motor vehicles will be reduced to 30c per kilometre

. A single tariff will apply to all motorists in a vehicle class whether they have an e-tag or not

. E-toll fees that are outstanding will be discounted by 60%

. Motorists passing through the gantries fewer than 30 times a year will be exempt from paying

Talk to us: Are you buying Cyril Ramaphosa’s new deal? Will you start paying for e-tolls?

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