Row erupts over charging on South African roads Parliament hears evidence that controversial e-toll scheme is costing too much to run and charging too much to drivers

South Africa

South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AA) – A South African MP has claimed that less than one in 10 motorists are complying with e-toll payments in the country’s business province, Gauteng.

Registered e-toll users peaked to 40 percent in 2014 but is now a meagre nine percent, Manny de Freitas’ said on Tuesday.

The claim comes amid widespread unhappiness from motorists at the charges.

The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) launched the e-tolls in 2011, amid public apprehension.

“I will not be held up to pay for a road system that makes me pay unnecessarily extra,” frustrated Gauteng motorist Suleiman Bham told Anadolu Agency, adding: “It becomes way too expensive to drive to the area of work every day.”

On Tuesday, campaigners from Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) discussed alternative strategies with Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport.

“There is high public resistance to e-tolling because of the lack of adequate public involvement with SANRAL and its unnecessary extra cost that impact the average citizen,” OUTA Chairman Wayne Duvenage said.

He added: “The e-toll payment method is not suited to South Africa’s transport mechanisms and the public has lost overall confidence in e-toll upgrades nationwide.”

In May 2015, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a revised e-toll tariff that gave a 60% discount. The Electronic Tolling Company disclosed that the average amount owed, including discount, is R1,875 ($114)

The average motorist in Gauteng must pay between R1.83 and R4.20 for each trip on a total of 1,832 kilometers [1,140 miles] of road that connects major areas of the province. However, OUTA’s Duvenage claims that the lowest average income is just R5,600 per month.

“A mother should not have to be burdened with the concern of whether she can afford the e-toll to get her child to school,” Duvenage added.

In 2012, SANRAL informed then transport minister Dikobe Ben Martins that e-toll payment collections would cost R200 million per annum.

However, this morning’s discussion revealed that it had amounted to R1 billion per annum.

Duvenage said: “OUTA’s transport and economic experts calculated SANRAL’s project to cost R10.8 billion; why did it cost R20.6 billion?”

Acting Chairperson of the Transport Committee, Leonard Ramatlakane, confirmed that the government suspects possible collusion with SANRAL over expenditure on the e-toll project:

“Collusion in the construction sector is cancerous and needs to be dealt with. Collusion stands rejected and Members agree that specialized corruption should be fought and uprooted,” he said.

In Feb. 2013, South Africa’s Competition Commission announced that the construction companies SANRAL used were guilty of collusion.

However, there still has not yet been any clarity from SANRAL over prosecuting or collecting overcharges. The government is rejecting OUTA’s proposal for an existing fuel levy policy to fund the e-toll with an added R0.09c per liter.

Ramatlakane said: “The fuel levy is not collected for roads, which was the situation of the past.

“The fuel levy is the largest contribution to overall government funding. It will hinder funding on the rest of the government departments.”

Gauteng’s GDP accounts for one-third of the national GDP.

© 2016, Shu’eib Hassen. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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