Government’s announcement on e-tolls may be delayed

The government's announcement on e-tolling in Gauteng may be delayed, the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Thabo Masebe said in a text message: "It is still on, but the time has not yet been set because of another meeting with stakeholders. The announcement may even be delayed until Saturday."

The "stakeholders" mentioned apparently include the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Earlier on Thursday, Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said the government would be "jumping the gun" if it went ahead with the announcement. He said Cosatu would meet the IMC on Friday morning.

"The absurd thing is we have a meeting with them [the IMC] tomorrow [Friday], on the same day as the announcement. Let's hope this works out … but it looks like someone has blundered," he said.

Responding to questions on what action Cosatu would take should the government announce that e-tolling was going ahead, Craven said: "Our campaign of opposition will be back into top gear … we will take to the streets. Let's hope they hold back."

Cosatu has mounted a strong campaign against e-tolling, maintaining it is the wrong way to raise money for the country's freeway systems.

The government's plans to introduce e-tolling in Gauteng have provoked massive opposition from motorists and residents of South Africa's economic heartland.

On Wednesday, Masebe said the IMC, which is chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, would "be making an announcement on Friday, on how the e-tolls will be implemented".

He said it was possible to have a solution that satisfied everyone, as the government and relevant parties were much closer after the consultations than earlier this year.

There was general agreement on the user-pays principle, Masebe said.

On Thursday, Craven said Cosatu did not support the user-pays principle. He repeated a call for the public not to buy e-tags, and said there were "huge numbers of people, beyond Cosatu" who were opposed to e-tolling. – Sapa

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