Painted into a corner not of her own making
With government now ever closer to getting its way with the implementation of e-tolls, the good intentions of our new minister of transport are, unfortunately, certain to be overshadowed.
So then, the Gauteng e-toll saga has reached the home straight. The Supreme Court of Appeal judgment has fallen in favour of government, based almost entirely on the delay in bringing the matter to court.
While I can understand the judicial process – and to some extent also agree with certain aspects of the judgement – the thing that continues to baffle me is simply the “why?” of it all. In all the meetings with the various departments of government, and even with the deputy president himself, the “why?’’ has never been addressed.
Why tolls and not a fuel levy or a shadow toll? The stock answer, well rehearsed and seemly drilled by the spin doctors, is “user pays”. No alternative and that’s final.
Well, we’ll have to see just how final.
The first real signs of public displeasure were already evident at the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (Sanral’s) public hearings. Things went seriously pear shaped as far as Sanral, the Department of Transport and the Treasury were concerned. The levels of outrage meant that only three of these public meetings were ever held. In effect, that almost consisted of the sum total of public participation.
The trade unions and politicians had, up until then, kept a fairly low profile on the issue. Not anymore. It seems as though everyone has joined the clamour against e-tolls – and rightly so. What is bothersome though is that, despite the noise, government is still not listening.
It seems Gauteng e-tolls have become a rallying call symbolising so many other issues bedevilling the citizenry of this country. Now of course the minister of transport has inherited this Pandora’s Box of tricks, which will count against her eventually.
Despite the good she is trying to do with regard to road safety, she will be remembered not as the architect of urban tolling in South Africa but as the person responsible for the immeasurable additional cost of transport, consumer goods and indirect taxation on the folks living in and around Gauteng.
The paint has dried, but the minister is still stuck in the corner.
And then what happens if no-one pays? More paint and a different corner perhaps?
SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields and has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit www.focusontransport.co.za