Did Gauteng violate Sanral Act with e-tolls payment?

Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Gauteng’s allocation of R123m to help fund the gap needed for the new e-tolls dispensation could be in direct contravention with the Sanral Act, the anti-toll group said on Tuesday.

The act states that there could be no cross subsidisation between tolled and non-tolled funding and operations, according to Wayne Duvenage, chairperson of the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa).

“Taking Gauteng taxpayers' money and pushing it into funding of a national e-toll project would appear to be a gross violation of the Sanral Act, and is another serious blow to the residents of Gauteng,” said Duvenage.

Gauteng Finance and e-Government MEC Barbara Creecy announced this allocation during her 2015/16 financial year mini budget speech on Tuesday.

It was needed to help fill the budget gap left after the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) was forced to implement a new fees structure this year, which cuts payments by 50% in an attempt to appease motorists, most of whom boycott the system.

E-tolls a financial black hole

However, Duvenage said the bailout “is a drop in the bucket for the financial black hole” that the system has become.

“The monthly payments required by the e-toll scheme to meet its required target are over R260m,” he said. “Gauteng’s contribution doesn’t even settle half of one month’s payment requirements of the ill-fated scheme, which in effect means that none of this regional allocation will go to refunding the bond for the tarmac.

“Who knows where it is going or being allocated to? Gauteng taxpayers' money will merely be wasted on Sanral’s e-toll extravagance once again.”

Outa supports investment in Gauteng’s road infrastructure, but advocates that the full amount rather be allocated towards road maintenance on the rest of Gauteng’s critically neglected roads, and not to prop up Sanral’s “incurable and exorbitant e-toll system”.

Rearranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic

Outa said urban freeway upgrades such as the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (e-tolls) should be funded through fuel levy allocations from Treasury.

“When compared to the massive costs of the e-toll system, the R123m in taxpayers' money paid by the Gauteng Provincial government to Sanral amounts to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic,” he said.

“It illustrates the enormous burden Sanral has placed on Gauteng motorists, which the vast majority (now at close to 80%) have continued to reject by refusing to pay,” said Duvenage.