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End of the Road for E-Toll System in Gauteng as Government Officially Announces Scrapping

Published March 30, 2024
1 months ago

In a landmark decision, the South African government has confirmed that the controversial electronic tolling (e-toll) system, which has been a source of persistent public and stakeholder outcry, will officially be scrapped in the province of Gauteng. The announcement was made by the Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga, stating that the e-tolls would be delinked from gantries effective midnight of April 11, 2024.

The e-toll system, part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), was introduced to recover the costs of improving major freeways in the province, but its implementation saw a significant backlash from the public, the business sector, and civil society organizations including the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa). The call to end the e-toll system was a long-standing battle between the government and the people of Gauteng, with implementation plagued by low compliance rates and widespread resistance.

Amidst the controversy, various discussions among key stakeholders, including Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, resulted in an agreement to end the urban tolling system while maintaining the roads as national roads. A Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) is expected to formalize alternative funding solutions, covering the GFIP debt repayment and dealing with the backlog of maintenance and rehabilitation costs. As of December 31, 2023, the South African National Roads Agency Limited's (Sanral) debt is reported to be over R42 billion, presenting a daunting financial challenge for the province.

Celebration and relief were notable in the response from Outa, with CEO Wayne Duvenage expressing satisfaction over the government's decision. Duvenage highlighted the effective role of civil disobedience in challenging and ultimately toppling flawed policies such as the e-toll system.

Despite the closure of e-tolls, questions remain regarding the mechanism for funding the necessary maintenance and rehabilitation of the road network, which is reportedly in a dire state. The government's position remains firm on the 'user-pay principle' as a policy, indicating the need for continued engagement among stakeholders to secure consistent and adequate funding for road infrastructure projects to support economic development.

One issue that remains to be addressed is whether motorists who have already paid e-toll fees will receive reimbursement, and the future use of the existing gantry infrastructure is still to be definitively confirmed. However, there has been speculation about repurposing the gantries for crime prevention and traffic management purposes as relayed by Lesufi's office.

The official scrapping of the e-toll system underlines the government's responsiveness to public sentiment. Furthermore, it stresses the importance of finding suitable and sustainable methods of funding infrastructure, highlighting the need for transparency and collaboration between the government and its constituents.

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