Time to finally get rid of e-tolls

After years of delays, government is finally expected to make an announcement on the way forward for e-tolls in Gauteng during Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in late October. But, says the Automobile Association (AA), unless government terminates e-tolls, the system will continue to fail. The Association says government must also re-imburse those who have been paying all these years and cancel outstanding debt.

“Mr Godongwana is now best-placed to deal decisively with e-tolls and scrap the system once and for all. Continuing with e-tolls, in whatever form, will yield the same poor results and will further harden people’s views on a failing system,” says the AA.

Since its introduction in December 2013, the payment of e-tolls for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) has been a contentious issue with many motorists in the province refusing to pay. Their assertion then, as it is now, is that government must fund the GFIP through other means, possibly a ring-fencing of some of the revenue collected through the General Fuel Levy (GFL).

The AA’s 2019 Road Funding Report in which road funding models globally are examined is available at https://aa.co.za/road-funding-report/.

“In our meeting with the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula in August 2019, we communicated our findings that payment compliance is low, and that motorists in the province have taken a principled stance not to pay e-tolls. Mr Mbalula indicated at that meeting that a decision on the future of e-tolls would be forthcoming the following March. This never materialised and several dates put forward by him to clarify the future of e-tolls have since come and gone. In June this year, Mr Mbalula indicated that Mr Godongwana would clarify the future e-tolls in his MTBPS, a date we trust will be kept,” says the AA.

The Association says the delays in making an announcement on e-tolls cause confusion and contribute to more people refusing to pay. It says it believes that people who continued to pay e-tolls have since stopped and reports now suggest payment compliance levels to be below 18%, less than half of the reported high compliance rate of 40% in 2014.

“In any event if government keeps the current system in place it is doomed to fail. Our position is clear: government must allocate funds from existing revenue channels to the GFIP rather than continue to turn to already embattled motorists to finance the system. Motorists correctly question government spending in many areas including, for instance, huge salaries and bonusses to executives at poorly run State-Owned Enterprises, while they are being asked time and again to make contributions on top of the taxes they’re already paying,” notes the AA.

The Association says it will continue to lobby for the termination of e-tolls through official channels. In addition, it has launched an online petition urging motorists in the province to add their voice to calls for the scrapping of e-tolls.

“Motorists in Gauteng have already, effectively, cast their vote against e-tolls by not paying. But we must reinforce that message. We have launched an online campaign where people can directly petition the Ministers of Transport and Finance to compel them to reconsider moving forward with e-tolls. The petition is available at https://inbound.aa.co.za/e-tolls-petition-page and each petition submitted is a vote for transparency, accountability and the proper allocation of state resources, and we urge all motorists to #JoinTheMovement and #SupportTheCause,” says the AA.