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Friday / 24 May 2024
HomeNewsE-toll boycotters beware – Gauteng is coming to settle your debt

E-toll boycotters beware – Gauteng is coming to settle your debt

Gauteng’s controversial e-tolls may be on the way out, but the province is still planning to collect its dues from motorists who haven’t paid their outstanding tabs.

Deputy director-general of public finance at National Treasury, Mampho Modise, recently confirmed in an interview with Moneyweb that Gauteng has agreed that the e-toll debt “should and will be collected.”

Mixed messages

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi announced during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Monday, 19 February 2024, that the process of shutting down the province’s electronic toll gantries (e-tolls) will begin on 31 March.

This news came more than a year after it was announced that the gantries would be scrapped with 30% of the debt they accumulated to be settled by the Gauteng government and 70% by the national government.

Following this initial statement, there has been a long-running debate as to whether road users who complied with the tolling scheme should be refunded, or if boycotting motorists should be required to pay what they owe.

In January 2023, Lesufi stated in an interview on 702 that e-toll payers would be refunded, but this comment was later swept under the rug with Lesufi himself publicly proclaiming that he never made such a statement despite numerous reports quoting him doing so.

The Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) recently said that it doesn’t see any e-toll payers being refunded as government simply does not have the money to do so.

“I don’t think that [e-toll refunds] are going to happen, I think Panyaza Lesufi was out of line when he made that comment a year ago, and he’s been trying to dodge it ever since,” said Outa CEO Wayne Duvenage.

“There are no funds and government wasn’t unlawfully collecting, and those who paid, paid voluntarily, those who didn’t pay, chose to take the risk, so there’s not going to be a refund we don’t believe.”

With e-toll refunds seemingly ruled out as a possibility, it appears that the province is now targeting the other 90% of road users – those who have refused to pay.

Modise clarified that the debt to be collected only refers to unpaid e-toll accounts and not to the bonds issued by the National Roads Agency (Sanral) to pay for the entire Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, of which e-tolls were only one aspect of revenue collection.

The outstanding amount owed by motorists eclipses R6 billion – around half of what the province owes – and Modise said that, for now, the plan is that Gauteng will use the existing Sanral infrastructure to perform these collections.

Ultimately, however, Gauteng must still decide whether to collect the unsettled toll fees or let it go and flip the bill itself.

“[National Treasury] has a policy that users must pay for the economic infrastructure and Gauteng will then make a decision on how this will be funded,” said Modise.

“If Gauteng has the R6 billion, and they make a decision that they won’t collect, it’s their decision.”

Duvenage weighed in on the issue, stating that e-toll debt collections are unlikely to happen anytime soon owing to the general elections happening later this year.

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