OUTA requests e-toll talks turn to action
In order to meet SANRAL’s immediate funding requirements and avoid appropriating monies from various Government Departments, all stakeholders at the last Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) meeting on July 19 strongly motivated for the implementation of an additional amount on the national Fuel Levy to fund both the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and other national road infrastructure projects. Despite this funding option being the least expensive and more efficient than the e-toll collection process, National Treasury remains unmoved. It is hoped that subsequent IMC meetings will seriously explore the rationality of the Fuel Levy, even as an interim solution.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) is also concerned that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) are not included in the combined broad based stakeholder group that is currently engaging with the IMC. It is important that all relevant parties meet in one forum and avoid a parallel process, which might well delay any agreement.
After several weeks of reviewing numerous documents and records supplied by SANRAL and the Department of Transport, OUTA have filed their supplementary affidavit for part B of the case on 17 July 2012, this being the next step in the full review of the matter in the High Court. “It is imperative that this process gets underway, irrespective of the Constitutional Court appeal to set aside the interdict, as this is the heart of the matter,” says Duvenage.
To date, the review of the records supplied by the Government has not revealed anything that may hinder OUTA’s challenge. “Of serious concern is the fact that the decision to toll seriously lacked meaningful consultation and that it was rushed through under the guise of meeting World Cup deadlines,” says Duvenage. Noting the lack of appropriate consultation, irregular approval of the various environmental impact assessments and poor analysis regarding the cost of toll collection, OUTA claims that the Minister of Transport in 2007 was unable to make an informed and rational decision regarding the implementation of GFIP e-tolling.
The Saturday Star of 21 July reported that the delay in the roll out of e-toll would cause harm by reducing funding to social programs. OUTA rejects inferences of this nature categorically as it amounts to “emotional blackmail” and is not a reflection of reality. If the authorities were so pressed for funding, Treasury had many opportunities to apply an interim fuel levy to fund SANRAL’s R270m per month debt obligations to the GFIP creditors, pending the outcome of the legal case. Quite frankly, had a fuel levy increase of around 10c/liter been applied back in 2008 when the GFIP upgrade began, the investment would be a long way down the road of being reimbursed.
OUTA continues to receive much support for their efforts to oppose the implementation of e-tolling from all sections of business and citizens around the country. Over R5 million has been raised to date in contrast to an expected legal bill of around R10,8 million. Wayne Duvenage, OUTA's chairperson, is thrilled with OUTA’s growing supporters and encourages both business and all road users to contribute part of their e-tolls savings towards OUTA’s legal fees.