On 20 May Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that e-tolling will remain in place, but at significantly reduced rates.
The tariffs for light motor vehicles will be reduced from 58c/km to 30c/km, while drivers will enjoy a reduced monthly cap of R225 per month.
Ramaphosa also announced that motorists will have to pay their outstanding e-tolls upon renewal of vehicle licences.
These changes, the Deputy President said, showed that the government listened to the people, and delivered a new e-toll dispensation which addressed the concerns raised by South Africans.
Many citizens feel it is a stretch for the government to claim to have addressed the concerns of the people, though.
In a study conducted by Ipsos, the vast majority of Gauteng motorists (74%) felt that the government should find an alternative to the e-toll system.
People want e-tolls to be scrapped, and the backlash against Ramaphosa’s announcement was not unexpected.
“It is not surprising that the news of the fee reduction has not been more positively received,” said Ipsos director Mari Harris.
Harris said the opinion that the public voice was not heeded means it is unlikely that e-tolls will now be paid.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said the only positive e-tolling decision would be if the government scraps the system and finds funding through the national fiscus, fuel levy, and other mechanisms.
Outa said the e-toll scheme remains an irrational one, which is why the public defied the system in the first place. “Nothing will change, and it is certainly not in the best interest of society,” said Outa.
“At every engagement intervention, since the GFIP Steering Committee of 2011, the Inter Ministerial Committee of 2012, and the Makhura e-toll Advisory Panel of 2014, the overwhelming majority of submissions have been an outright rejection of the scheme,” said Outa.
Government did not listen to the people: Howard Dembovsky
Howard Dembovsky, chairman of the Justice Project South Africa, said he disagrees with the statement that the government listened to the people regarding e-tolls.
“All of the public engagements with the panel, coupled with the mere fact that the people have steadfastly not paid e-tolls, demonstrates the extreme disdain that people have with e-tolling,” said Dembovsky.
“With the exception of Sanral and CESA, every single submission and public interaction called for the scrapping of e-tolls,” he said.
“To say that the public is in agreement with the government on the “user pay principle” is being economical with the truth. People acknowledged that roads don’t build or upgrade themselves, but people felt that they do pay for these roads in taxes, including income tax and the fuel levy.”
Dembovsky said the lower e-toll rates do not address the issue of the high cost of administering the e-toll system.
It also does not address the issue of the poor levels of public consultation prior to introducing the system, or the lack of viable, non-tolled alternative routes.