Addressing the opening of the ANC Gauteng provincial conference in Irene on Friday, Paul Mashatile, who is expected to be reelected as ANC Gauteng chairperson, was no holds barred in his opposition to e-tolling.
“Government agencies must know, they do not run this country, we do,” he said to applause. Mashatile was unrepentent in his opposition to e-tolling which is national legislation. “Sanral cannot tell us what to do. We will tell them what to do,” Mashatile said.
This comes at the backdrop of Sanral chief executive Nazir Ali saying the agency would not consider the report of an e-toll review panel set up by Gauteng Premier David Makhura. While Sanral and transport minister Dipou Peters insisted that the report of the panel could not affect national legislation, Mashatile would not have any of it. “Its report must be implemented. We will ensure as Gauteng that with [the ANC] head office that we move together on this,” he said.
Mashatile further explained that Makhura did not act independently when setting up the review panel. “One of the first people the premier discussed with… that we going to do this panel is the President,” he said.
e-tolls affecting Gauteng votes
The ANC in the province wants opposition to e-tolling to be a conference decision. This comes as it attributed a portion of the sharp decrease in votes in the province to the controversial system. “We can’t close our eyes to the problems of Gauteng,” Mashatile said. The e-toll review panel had the ANC’s national leaders divided with the Citypress reporting that the ANC’s top six leaders did not agree on this.
Many leaders have skirted around the topic – saying the user pay legislation could not be changed. Mashatile further lambasted those who tried to silence him from speaking out. “When people come to me and say don’t talk about e-tolls, I wont listen!”
In his key note address to the conference, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said the e-toll debate should be a “sober one”. “We must not tear ourselves apart over it,” he said. Ramaphosa told the conference that the 10% decrease in votes for the ANC provincially was a “cause for concern”.
“The decline of 10% of the polls is a serious matter that deserves full attention of membership,” he said. Ramaphosa took a hard line against factionalism within the ANC and patronage. “We have seen vote buying, gate keeping, patronage handed around, [we have] seen how factionalism weakened our organisation, how violence is also used to win positions.”
Meanwhile voting of the new provincial leadership of the ANC would go ahead on Friday night.
Only ‘one centre of policy-making’
In response to Mashatile’s comments, the department of transport’s spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said: “There’s only one centre of policy-making as far as government is concerned and that’s national government.”
Rikhotso said the comments should be seen in the context of a separation between national government, which determined policy and legislation, and provinces, which implemented it. “The division of mandate is quite clear as far as policy-making is concerned. We are responsible for the implementation of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Act, which was signed into law by the president in 2013,” Rikhotso said.
“Among other things, that particular mandate gives authority to the department of transport, through Sanral, to operate tolling so far as the 201km of the road network in question in Gauteng is concerned.”
Rikhotso said the e-tolls review panel was set up by Makhura to examine the economic and social impact of the tolling system, and not review the e-tolls policy itself, which could only be done by national government.
“We acknowledge the efforts by the premier of Gauteng on the social impact of the implementation of tolling,” Rikhotso said. “We will continue engaging with all stakeholders, including the province of Gauteng, on the question of e-tolling.” – Additional reporting by Sapa