E-tolling to go ahead
Government is forging ahead with the implementation of the e-tolling system on Gauteng's freeways but discussions with stakeholders to explain the move will continue, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said on Thursday.
Speaking in Cape Town following this week's ordinary Cabinet meeting, Chabane said government had noted the overwhelming number of people who turned out for the protest marches organised by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday against e-tolling and labour broking, but the decision to implement the system on 30 April has not changed.
"Government has over a long period, consulted various stakeholders in business and civil society on the issue of e-tolling on Gauteng upgraded freeways and these discussions will continue," Chabane said.
Cosatu wants the government to scrap the system while it is also demanding the ban of labour brokers. Yesterday, the union's General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi argued that e-tolling in the province would seriously affect the poor, a claim that has been challenged by government.
Chabane said: "The fact that government has taken steps to mitigate in the form of R6.8 billion from National Treasury is recognition of the importance to reduce the burden not only on the poor but all the affected road users."
As a result of the Treasury's intervention toll fees were slashed by almost half of the original price.
The reduced fees will see cars with e-tags pay 30c per km, motorcycles charged 20c per km, while non-articulated trucks pay 75c per km and articulated trucks will be charged R1.51 per km.
There will also be a frequent-user cap of R550 a month for light vehicles and motorcyles, as well as a "time-of-day" saving of 20% for heavy vehicles. Drivers of motorcycles will pay 20c per km and non-articulated and articulated trucks would pay 75c and R1.51 per km respectively.
To help ease congestion, heavy vehicles will qualify for a 20 per cent discount if they use the roads during off-peak times in the day. Taxis and other public transport operators will be exempt from toll fees.
Chabane said the fact that taxis and busses, a mode of transport used by the majority of the workers, will be exempted from paying fees, was further testimony to government's willingness to lessen the financial load on regular road users.
Government has consistently said the e-tolling system would go a long way in addressing the backlog in road construction and maintenance programmes throughout the country. It said although the system has been criticized and opposed by political parties, individuals and civic organizations, no attention has been paid to the benefits of this system.
These benefits include, among others, a high quality road network, improved road safety, and reduced travelling distances, which result in substantial savings on the running costs of their vehicles.
They also eliminate delays, unreliable travel times, and levels of discomfort and inconvenience.
In Gauteng fees collected would also help the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) pay back a R20 billion loan that was granted to the agency for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.
SANRAL has in a statement dismissed media reports that it will gain uncontrolled access to motorists' bank accounts if they register for e-tolling.
On the issue of labour brokers, which Cosatu has labelled "an exploitation of the worst form", Chabane said discussions on the matter were heading towards finalisation in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).
"We have said the matter (of labour brokers) is being discussed and finalised in the processes of Nedlac," Chabane said, adding that a positive was in sight.
Apparently the discussions have centred on eliminating abuse practices within the labour brokering industry with Chabane acknowledging that some within the industry were involved in exploitative practices. - BuaNews