Government has started the first of many engagements with the private sector to assess the solutions offered as an alternative to the e-tolling system on the upgraded Gauteng highways, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday.
Motlanthe, who is heading up the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and related e-tolling system, started the private sector engagement with a meeting with Business Unity South Africa (Busa).
The Deputy President said that while various funding models were examined, the requirement remained the same – South Africa needed to decongest its roads, as well as improve its alternative routes and develop a reliable public transport system.
He re-emphasised that the user-pay system was the "most equitable way" of funding the GFIP. He said the engagement with the private sector should uncover the underlying cause for frustration regarding the user-pay system.
He pointed to a number of further consultations with other organisations in coming weeks, including the Road Freight Association on Tuesday, followed by a meeting with the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) on Thursday.
The proposed e-tolling of Gauteng's highways was halted earlier this year. Outa took the matter to the North Gauteng High Court, which stopped the e-tolling system from going live on April 30, pending a judicial review.
Following the ruling, the government approached the Constitutional Court, arguing that the decision to stop e-tolling would negatively impact on the economy. The Constitutional Court will hear arguments in August.
Motlanthe argued that the Gauteng Provincial Government and the municipalities, in conjunction with the Department of Transport, had embarked on major rehabilitation projects on the alternative roads that would link major cities in the province.
Busa commented that the current e-tolling collection design held "wider national implications" for the South Africa, as it could significantly impact the cost of undertaking business in Gauteng and surrounds.
Busa, which was currently engaging government on it proposed strategic projects, said that while it supported the user-pay principle, the implementation of a general fuel levy would limit the impact of transactions and administrative costs on the economy.
Busa also hoped that all stakeholders could agree on the most "efficient and effective" approach to finance and implement future infrastructure projects.
The organisation added that a renewed focus was required on regulatory impact assessments (RIAs), particularly surrounding the introduction of the e-tolling system.
RIAs would increase the quality of decision-making on certain types of public spending and regulatory frameworks.