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Wednesday / 19 June 2024
HomeNewsE-tolls are officially dead – New date set for shutdown

E-tolls are officially dead – New date set for shutdown

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi has officially announced that the process of delinking the province’s e-toll gantries will start by the end of March.

The announcement was made during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Monday, 19 February 2024, where he stated that an agreement had been reached with all relevant parties, including the ministers of finance and transport, and that they will start the formal process of switching off and delinking the e-toll system by 31 March 2024.

Commenting on the decision to scrap the gantries, Lesufi said that e-tolls were introduced to the province by the national government in a bid to improve its roads but that things have reached a point where it is accepted that the people of Gauteng have rejected the scheme.

He added that Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana would elaborate on this decision during the Budget Speech on Wednesday, 21 February.

Blue light at the end of the tunnel

The news that Gauteng’s e-tolls will be shut down is not new, as the idea was first announced all the way back in October 2022 during Godongwana’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTPBS).

The initially proposed date would see the gantries being scrapped by December 2022, but this deadline came and went, and the system continues to be operational as of February 2024 with motorists still being charged on a daily basis.

During this period, it was also revealed that the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) had signed an extension on its e-tolls collections contract with the Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) agency in late 2022, pushing the expiry date to June 2023, which was then extended again to a new date of December 2023.

This is more than a year after the announcement was made that the system would be turned off, prompting groups like the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) to label the delays as a betrayal of citizen trust.

The main roadblock causing these multiple delays has been the absence of a binding agreement between the Gauteng provincial government and the national government regarding the former’s debt responsibilities for the failed project.

Gauteng is accountable for paying 30% of the debt and interest incurred by the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, including e-tolls, while the national government has commited to paying the remaining 70%.

In an official parliamentary inquiry last year, Godongwana said that e-tolls would only be shut down once an agreement is reached between the two parties regarding Gauteng’s debt repayment, the province’s contribution to the system’s maintenance backlog, and the administrative costs associated with the recovery of toll payments from defaulting users.

However, this matter appears to have finally been solved, as the Premier has now confirmed that an agreement has been reached between all parties.

Importantly, while Lesufi has announced the end of e-tolls, this cannot be formally done until the regulations enabling the system have been repealed.

It is also unclear whether the legislative process will only start on 31 March or if the relevant laws will be repealed before this time, allowing for the tolling scheme itself to officially be shut down by the stated deadline.

More information on the process of shutting down Gauteng’s e-tolls will be provided by the Finance Minister during his Budget Speech tomorrow (21 February).

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