Despite an imminent government decision on the future of e-tolls, the Department of Transport has published revised e-toll tariffs for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) that will be effective and payable from March 1.
The government in December decided to delay a decision on the future of e-tolls on the GFIP until the first cabinet meeting this year, which takes place on Wednesday.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) CEO Wayne Duvenage on Monday questioned why the Department of Transport would gazette all the tariff increases on e-tolls when the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) in December only extended the e-toll management contract awarded to Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) for three months up until the end of February this year.
“What does that mean? We have got to assume that when you see tariff hikes in March that e-tolls are here to stay because if they were going to be cancelled, they wouldn’t put the tariffs up and waste people’s time reading a gazette,” Duvenage said.
“That is what I will presume from a gazette like that.”
Duvenage anticipates a government announcement on the future of e-tolls either in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday or in the budget speech later this month.
Sanral general manager of communications Vusi Mona said on Monday that Sanral publishes the annual toll tariff adjustments as approved by the minister of transport every year.
Mona stressed that these adjustments are done in terms of the preceding 12 months’ consumer price index (CPI) and, as a result, are not tariff increases but adjustments for CPI.
He added that Sanral is not responsible for making policy decisions or decisions related to the continuation or scrapping of e-tolls.
“Sanral will implement any announcement once required to do so by the minister of transport,” he said.
Commenting on the extension of ETC’s contract last year for only three months until the end of February, Mona said there are toll operators appointed on all toll routes, including the GFIP, that are fulfilling an operational function to collect tolls.
“This is not linked to the legal requirement to pay tolls on a particular road,” he said.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said during a post-cabinet meeting media briefing in December that cabinet had noted the report on e-tolls on the GFIP by the task team led by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and that a final decision on the recommendation, as contained in the report, would be made by cabinet in the new year.
Mthembu said the Department of Transport had done a lot of work on the options available and government was discussing which were the most appropriate options, not only for the Gauteng e-tolls, but generally for improving the road infrastructure in the country.
“We expanded the mandate of the department to look into all these matters of Gauteng e-tolls and how do we use whatever mechanism we will agree on to also improve our road infrastructure throughout the country … and what mechanism of funding should we be looking at? That is what the cabinet has to finalise,” he said.
Mthembu gave the assurance that the e-toll issue would be finalised when cabinet next met in the new year.
“We will give South Africa an idea about what we are going to do with the Gauteng e-tolls but secondly we will also give South Africans an idea on how are we going to improve our road infrastructure throughout the country,” he said.
“The decision that cabinet might ultimately arrive at might go beyond GFIP but I think you will also be very proud of the options that cabinet would have agreed on,” he said.