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Wednesday / 17 April 2024
HomeFeaturesSouth Africans must pay e-tolls for another 6 months at least

South Africans must pay e-tolls for another 6 months at least

Gauteng’s motorists will need to continue paying their e-tolls for at least another six months, despite the project’s supposed shutdown.

The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) confirmed to TopAuto that it has renewed its e-toll contract until December 2023, and that road users are required to pay their bills until the relevant legislation has been repealed.

Delays and renewals

In October 2022, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana announced that phase 1 of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project would no longer require the electronic road toll collection system (colloquially referred to as “e-tolls”), to finance the province’s freeway upgrades.

Despite this announcement, Sanral signed an extension to its e-toll collections contract with the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) agency in late 2022, which was then scheduled to expire in June 2023. This is after a previous extension was signed in April 2022.

Now, the roads agency has confirmed that it has once again extended its contract with a new deadline of 15 December 2023, during which time the province’s gantries will continue to charge motorists that pass under them.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) labelled the contract extension and consequent delay to the e-toll shutdown as “either gross ineptitude, incompetence, or a reluctance by Government to end the scheme, for some unknown or obscure reason.”

“OUTA has repeatedly called for finality on the e-toll situation and warned against extending the collection contract,” it said in an official statement.

The group has described the renewals as an irregular and unnecessary expense, and has repeatedly called on the Minister of Transport and Sanral to put an end to the road billing scheme.

Between October 2022 and February 2023, multiple statements were made by the provincial government and other stakeholders that the controversial tolling scheme had been shut down, with Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi proclaiming that “e-tolls have been scrapped permanently in our province” during his State of the Province address on 20 February.

These statements have since been replaced with explanations as to why the project is still operational, with one of the most commonly-cited reasons being how compliant and non-compliant motorists will be handled.

The Premier had previously announced that road users who had diligently paid their fees would be refunded, while those who boycotted the programme would have their debts excused.

Not long after, the Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) stated that cancelling motorists’ debt was not equitable to those who have complied with the system, and that everyone should pay what they owe before it is shut down.

The refund promise was also met with skepticism from several organisations and business leaders owing to how such a thing would even be achieved, both in terms of logistics and financing, given Sanral’s multi-billion rand debt.

Intellidex director Peter Attard Montalto recently wrote an opinion piece for BusinessTech, where he noted that refunds were not feasible given that the gantries are still operational and are therefore still billing motorists every day.

He described the refund proposal as a waste of time and another headline-grabbing promise made in the run-up to election season that “will never happen.”

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