The end of e-tolls: A broken promise to South African motorists

What will it take for government to honour its own commitment?

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03/10/2023 13:17:50

.Image: OUTA

The end of e-tolls: A broken promise to South African motorists

It has been a year since Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana promised an end to e-tolls, but motorists in Gauteng are still grappling with this unjust system. The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is dismayed the government’s failure to implement its own decision and deliver on the decision to scrap e-tolls, which it stated to millions of Gauteng road users.

On 23 October 2022, in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTPBS) Minister Enoch Godongwana announced government’s alternative funding mechanism to address the financing of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) debt, which involved state-allocated funds. This announcement sparked hope among those who have endured the frustration of the e-tolling system for over a decade. Shortly thereafter, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi confirmed that the e-toll scheme would be deactivated by 31 December 2022, and even mentioned the possibility of refunding a substantial sum of R6.8 billion to those who had previously paid.

MTBPS 2022 provided an additional R27.476 billion for Sanral: R3.740 billion through the Adjustments Appropriation Act 2022 specifically for the GFIP and R23.736 billion through the Special Appropriation Act 2022 for Sanral’s debt redemption fund. In November 2022, OUTA made a formal submission to the Standing and Select Committees on Appropriations on the MTBPS money bills and the Sanral transfers (see here) and also a verbal presentation to the committees. We asked for an explanation of Sanral’s debt, the GFIP debt and what was being paid off. Parliament passed those bills but we have yet to receive an explanation.

In February 2023, Budget 2023 included another R2.2 billon for the GFIP and the Transport vote referred to the R23.736 billion received through the MTBPS towards the Sanral debt as “a partial solution” to the GFIP debt, with no clear explanation of that debt.

As we stand in October 2023, not a single step has been taken to implement the decision to scrap e-tolls. The burning questions are: What will it take for the government to honour its own commitment? What has Sanral done with the additional funds it received towards paying off the GFIP debt?

Sanral’s Integrated Report for 2022/23 notes that the Gauteng government will contribute 30% of the outstanding GFIP debt and national government the remaining 70% (it refers to GFIP debt rather than Sanral debt) and that the R23.736 billion in the Special Appropriation Act 2022 was national government’s “first contribution” to its 70% share.

This issue transcends the debate between national and provincial government responsibilities; it is about the irrationality and injustice of a scheme that has burdened Gauteng motorists for far too long. The irrational e-toll system has placed an unfair financial strain on citizens, and yet the government has either failed or refused to terminate it, despite making a clear decision to do so a year ago.

One cannot overlook the administrative costs incurred by the government in extending the e-toll collection contract over the last year (see here and here) and sending bills to thousands of motorists for a system that was ended a year ago. These costs represent wasteful expenditure and further underscore the impracticality of e-tolls.

 “The continued delay in ending the e-tolls system is a betrayal of the trust that citizens have placed in their government. We have patiently awaited relief from this irrational system, and the government’s inaction is causing needless stress to South African motorists. OUTA calls upon the government to act immediately on its commitment to end e-tolls and deliver the relief it promised,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA CEO.

OUTA remains unwavering in its commitment to advocate for the rights and interests of South Africans, and we will persistently hold the government accountable for its promises.

More information

Read more on OUTA’s e-toll campaign here.

A soundclip with comment by OUTA Executive Director, Advocate Stefanie Fick, in Afrikaans, is here and in English is here.

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In 2023, we’re in court challenging the AARTO law, the Karpowership generation licences and SANRAL’s secrecy over toll profits.
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