Gauteng motorists would do well to pay as much attention to the soap opera like developments stemming from the e-tolling saga as they did prior to the High Court ruling of postponing the implementation indefinitely.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance’s (OUTA) has filed a relying affidavit to the Constitutional Court following Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan approaching the court to set aside a high court interdict stopping the implementation of the system.
OUTA claims that the government’s postponement of e-tolling in Gauteng is a contradiction of its claims that further postponements would harm the country irreparably.
Ghordan, in his affidavit to the Constitutional Court, stated the delay in the implementation of the e-toll system had already cost South African National Road Agency Limited (SANRAL) R2.7 billion.
He further stated that the monthly running of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project cost R601 million and this would rapidly erode the R5.75 billion extraordinary appropriation made to SANRAL by the government.
Gordhan also pointed out that credit rating agency Moody’s had already downgraded SANRAL’s credit rating and that the auditor-general had warned the agency that he might have to issue a disclaimer by the end of next month, which would result in further downgrade’s by ratings agencies.
OUTA says the 11th hour postponement of the e-tolling system by the Department of Transport before an interdict was granted in April was a “remarkable turn of events”, flying in the face of strenuous arguments against a postponement by the agency and national Treasury in court the same day.
OUTA representative Marc Corcoran says it appeared the reason for the latest postponement of the system was, in fact, “political expediency” rather than “to finalise regulations” as put by the Transport Department’s director-general, George Mahlalela.
OUTA also highlights that the “harm” argued by the government is exaggerated and inaccurate.
OUTA’s reply affidavit alsostates that with the implementation of the system at R21.568 billion, the cost of toll collections would actually exceed the costs of the road upgrades themselves.Ghordan maintains the collection costs for the controversial e-toll system are sufficiently low.
Moody’s Investors Service has explained that R270 million per month is needed by SANRAL, but with operation costs it’s close to R600 million per month, according to Gordhan.
One of the major concernssurrounding the e-tolling system is that there is no viable public transport alternative in place. However, transport minister Sibusiso Ndebele maintains public transport in the country is acceptable and sufficient.