Business Unity South Africa (Busa) has requested a meeting with the Inter-Ministerial Committee established to deal with the current opposition to and legal interdict against the implementation of e-tolling on Gauteng’s upgraded motorways.
The committee is led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, but also includes Minister in The Presidency Responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation Collins Chabane, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Motlanthe said on Thursday that, while government remained convinced that the user-pay option was the most “viable, fair and equitable” way to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Programme (GFIP) and that e-tolling was the “most appropriate mechanism for collection of toll fees”, the committee remained open to consultation.
The purpose of the GFIP consultation, Motlanthe said, was to “understand and hear the other side and the nature of the concerns”. “If those concerns are not already covered by the current arrangements, then we will have to go back to Cabinet and say: ‘There is a serious concern about this or that’.”
He stressed that government would “always listen” and that it was prepared to “go back to the drawing board” if its answers to the concerns raised were found to be inadequate.
Nevertheless, in a statement prepared to reaffirm Cabinet’s support for the user-pay system of funding, Motlanthe moved to rebut the chief concerns raised by the e-toll opponents, including those related to the cost of collection, the lack of transport alternatives and a lack of due process and consultation.
In its statement, Busa said it would like to raise possible long-term solutions to the broader financing and roll-out of future road and transport infrastructure.
“Busa believes that through consultation, measures can be identified that would mitigate any unintended consequences to the economy in delaying a resolution of this matter.”
But Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was far less reconciliatory.
He expressed anger at the committee’s suggestion that a decision made jointly by Cosatu and the African National Congress to delay the implementation of e-tolling had been merely advisory in nature.
Motlanthe indicated that Cosatu “ran ahead of themselves” in announcing the delay on the eve of the proposed implementation date. “What was effected was not what Cosatu announced, but what the government decided, [which was] that there should be a postponement of collection by a month.”
Sapa reported Vavi’s response as follows: "It's quite annoying . . . to be told that our agreement with the ruling party is a mere recommendation to the superpower, the government.”
Vavi also argued that government’s application to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal the April 28 interdict would fail and was a waste of the court’s time.
Cosatu suggested a 14 c/l increase in the fuel levy as an interim measure.