Makhura and e-tolls: A lesson in repetition

Gauteng premier David Makhura has announced, yet again, that e-tolls need to be done away with because they contribute to the ever-increasing cost of living in the province.

In a few vague lines during his State of the Province Address (Sopa) on Monday, Makhura touched on the issue but didn’t say anything about the measures being taken to address e-tolls and whether scrapping the system is guaranteed.

“There is no question anymore, urban tolling increases the cost of living and is not unsustainable. Government teams are hard at work to find solutions and President [Cyril] Ramaphosa has assured me that e-tolls are receiving his urgent attention,” Makhura said.

Makhura has said the variation of the same thing for the past two Sopa’s without any real action on the matter.

Then and now

Makhura’s Sopa on Monday is his last before national elections on May 8 and with Gauteng as one of the key battlegrounds, the premier spent most of the address highlighting the progress that the province has made under an ANC-led government post 1994.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has gunned for the province with a strong emphasis on corruption, crime, jobs, immigration and service delivery as part of its election campaign.

The DA has already won over the two major metros in the province – the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, which they control through a coalition.

READ MORE: DA launches 2019 election campaign

Makhura made reference to the 2018 Gauteng City-Region Quality of Life Survey which revealed that basic services in the province have increased from an average of 60% in 1994 to 85% in 2018.

He also announced that Gauteng’s economy has grown five fold- from R290-billion in 1996 to R1.5-trillion in 2017- making the province the economic and industrial hub of not only the country, but also the seventh largest economy on the continent.

“Gauteng-based business have more than 300 foreign direct investment projects worth R356-billion. These projects have created more than 45 000 jobs.”

The number of people employed in the province’s economy has also doubled – from 2.6 million in 1996 to 5.163 million in 2018, Makhura said. 

In 2017, he lamented the inability to resolve the outcry against e-tolls and non-compliance of payments by motorists.

Makhura said while there were plans to develop further road and rail infrastructure, government would ensure that nothing goes ahead without full public consultation to avoid the public not complying with regulations.

“We can’t build infrastructure such as roads and only come back to people later to inform them that they must pay. They can’t be told later that this infrastructure we are building is going to be paid for, we must be transparent with residents,” Makhura said.

READ MORE: Gauteng State of the Province address: What you need to know

In 2018, Makhura said he would engage Ramaphosa to find a “new and more equitable funding model to support the continued expansion of Gauteng’s road network and public transport system.”

Makhura also spoke about the burden of the increased cost of living placed on citizens in Gauteng.

“We all know that the e-tolls have added to the cost of living for many motorists and public transport users in Gauteng. The new dawn must also bring a solution to the protracted and unresolved problem of e-tolls. It is loud and clear for all to see that e-tolls have not worked.

Makhura barely mentioning the e-tolls in 2019 is in contrast to the Gauteng ANC’s consistent and vocal calls for e-tolls to be scrapped.

READ MORE: READ IN FULL: Premier Makhura’s Gauteng SOPA 2018

Members of the provincial government marched to the Union Buildings in November last year in a demonstration against the national leadership and its inaction on e-tolls.

They also protested against high data costs and the value-added tax increase on basic food items.

“We have decided to come here to make a very clear statement for all to know that the e-tolls have no future in the plans of this province as long as the ANC is in charge,” Makhura said during the march.

The ANC in Gauteng further penned an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday where they voiced their disappointment that he did not make any mention of the e-tolls in his State of the Nation address.

READ MORE: 25 years of democracy: Read President Ramaphosa’s SONA address in full

“We are deeply disappointed that your speech said nothing about the scrapping of e-tolls. The e-tolls have not worked in our province and the overwhelming majority of Gauteng motorists continue to refuse to pay,” the letter reads.

In an interview on SAfm on Monday, provincial secretary Jacob Khawe said the caucus wanted Ramaphosa to say that e-tolls will be scrapped.

“We think that we’ve done enough to convince the president and the Cabinet of South Africa that e-tolls in the current form are a burden to the motorists and the people of Gauteng,” Khawe said.

Khawe also noted that the president has made interventions in other areas that contribute to the high cost of living such as data costs and fuel costs but that e-tolls remain unaddressed.

“So we feel that the e-tolls equally deserve to be looked at to assist the people of the province”. 

Listen to Khawe’s interview here:

In August last year, treasury told Parliament that the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) had collected R5.6-billion less in e-toll fees than budgeted, hampering the agency’s ability to finance the maintenance of non-toll roads.

READ MORE: Sanral bears brunt of lack of government clarity on e-tolls

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