Goodbye e-tolls — for real this time

The Gauteng Provincial Government will begin the formal process of switching off and de-linking e-tolls on 31 March 2024.

This is according to Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, who once again promised that e-tolls would soon be history during his 2024 State of the Province address.

“We have now reached a stage where we all accept that the people of Gauteng have rejected e-tolls,” said Lesufi.

“We held a meeting with the minister of finance. We held a meeting with the minister of transport.”

“All of us now have reached an agreement that by the 31st of March this year, the formal process to switch off and de-link e-tolls will begin, and e-tolls will be history,” he added.

The premier said Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana would elaborate on the subject further in his budget speech on Wednesday.

However, this isn’t the first time Lesufi has made such promises. He also declared the e-toll system a thing of the past in October 2022.

He made the initial announcement shortly after Godongwana’s 2022 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, revealing that the national and provincial governments would pay off Sanral’s debt on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).

The e-toll system was a mechanism intended to fund the GFIP. However, Gauteng residents rejected the system, resulting in Sanral accumulating tens of billions of rand in debt from the scheme.

“To resolve the funding impasse, the Gauteng provincial government has agreed to contribute 30% to settling Sanral’s debt and interest obligations, while national government covers 70%,” Godongwana said nearly two years ago.

Lesufi said the Gauteng provincial government had agreed to formulate a new revenue enhancement model that excludes tolling motorists.

Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi

“We are now ready to start a new life without e-tolls in Gauteng,” Lesufi said. “This was not an easy decision, but necessary.”

At the time, the premier said that the way forward concerning people who had already paid for e-tolls would be up to Sanral.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) praised the decision to scrap e-tolls in a statement following the announcement.

Originally called the Opposition Against Urban Tolling Alliance, Outa was a significant driver behind the civil disobedience against the e-toll since its introduction in December 2013.

The organisation was founded in the year prior in anticipation of e-tolls coming into effect and immediately started resisting the scheme.

“After a decade of defiance, seven transport ministers and billions in uncollectable debt, government has finally acknowledged the end of e-tolls,” the organisation said in its statement.

In January 2023, Lesufi announced that Gauteng motorists who paid their e-toll bills would be refunded before backtracking on this towards the end of the year.

“There is a clear decision now that we need to refund people — some form of refund,” said Lesufi.

He also stated that R6.9 billion must be refunded, adding that Gauteng must still decide whether refunds will be cash or a credit that may be used to pay other road tolls.

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Goodbye e-tolls — for real this time