E-toll bill not withdrawn: Transport

The e-tolling bill has not been withdrawn in Parliament, the department of transport said on Thursday.

Department spokesman Tiyani Rikhotso said the portfolio committee had held its public hearings and was due to bring the matter before Parliament.

“The bill has not been withdrawn. The portfolio committee on transport had to give Parliament a three-day notice for the matter to be brought before National Assembly. The matter has been postponed for discussion,” he said.

Rikhotso said that while the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) was ready to implement e-tolling by end of this year, Transport Minister Ben Martins felt it was important to allow “the parliamentary process to run its course”.

“Any issue that relates to legislation needs to be concluded before we can go ahead with the implementation of e-tolling,” he said.

Earlier, there was jubilation from those opposed to the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill when it was withdrawn from the National Assembly order paper at almost the last minute.

Shortly after the Assembly convened on Thursday afternoon, the ANC asked that two resolutions paving the way for the bill to be debated later in the day be withdrawn.

No reasons were given and the request was agreed to by the House.

According to a memorandum attached to the bill, its provisions are essential to implement e-tolling and the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, and other proposed road infrastructure projects in the country.

Shortly afterwards, at least two political parties claimed credit for the withdrawal.

In a statement, Democratic Alliance spokesman Ian Ollis claimed “pressure from opposition parties has pressed the ANC to withdraw” the bill.

“After a call by DA chief whip Watty Watson, which was supported by other parties, and a threat from the opposition to stage a walkout during the debate on the e-toll bill, the ANC withdrew the bill this afternoon.

“This means that the Gauteng e-toll will not be the anticipated lump of coal in Christmas stockings this year,” he said.

The committee’s deliberations on the bill will continue in the new year, as it can be considered only when Parliament reconvenes on February 10, and will then be sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

“This is indeed a victory for opposition parties and the South African public.

Freedom Front Plus spokesman Anton Alberts said he had proposed various “important legislative amendments” to the bill in terms of parliamentary rule 254, which allowed for amendments to be proposed before a second reading debate.

“It was decided to withdraw the bill from the order paper for Thursday after FFPlus chief whip Corne Mulder brought the amendments to the ANC’s attention,” Alberts said.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said it was happy the bill would not now be rushed through Parliament, but wound be delayed until next year “to allow for amendments”.

“This decision does not, however, mean the e-tolling has been scrapped, only postponed, and Cosatu will continue with its campaign of mass action against e-tolling, starting on 30 November 2012,” spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement.

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E-toll bill not withdrawn: Transport