South Africa

Mbalula promises another announcement on Gauteng e-Tolls

Cape Town - Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula came up with yet another deadline to announce the best option to deal with the controversial e-tolls issue in Gauteng.

Responding to questions in the national council of provinces (NCOP) yesterday, Mbalula said an announcement, on the long-awaited deal, would again be announced in two weeks' time.

He told delegates to the NCOP that his department was engaging with the national Treasury on the matter.

“We are at the tail end of our processes. The decision is on the table,” Mbalula said.

“We expect that, in the next two weeks, we should be back to the Cabinet before tabling our budget vote speeches. We should have gone to you (the NCOP) and the public to announce the Cabinet decision on the e-tolls,” he said.

The minister said the e-tolls issue has taken longer than would they have liked.

“We thought that by now we would have finalised it. Unfortunately, it is a big decision. We are not working alone,” he said.

“We go back and forth with the Treasury on these issues. That is how it is.

“We have to finalise this decision in the next two weeks, and table it, to you to inform you about the finality on this matter,” Mbalula said.

He earlier painted a dim state of finances at Sanral and other entities falling under his department.

Mbalula told the NCOP delegates that e-tolls caused huge delay on the road projects and its urgent resolution was of paramount importance.

He revealed that South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has made a further loan request of R7 billion to Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), over a 15-year guaranteed period, to finance old debt and new projects.

“Sanral further requested shifting of funds, from capital to current transfers, for R2.5bn, to accommodate the significant operational expenditure from non-toll to toll for 2020-21.

“In addition, Sanral requested a further R3.5bn in the funding for MIGA financing,” Mbalula said.

In October 2019, Mbalula told journalists at a press conference in Parliament that a decision, on the best option to deal with the controversial e-tolls issue, was to be decided by Cabinet within two weeks.

Mbalula, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, and Gauteng Premier David Makhura, were tasked by President Cyril Ramaphosa to look into the issue of e-tolls in Gauteng and report to the Cabinet.

Mboweni had, at the time, given mixed messages – saying Cabinet had resolved to implement a user-pay principle, and that Makhura and Mbalula were still engaging on the matter.

However, Mbalula had told the media that they tabled their proposals on the preferred reconfigured approach to the Gauteng freeway improvement project (GFIP).

Mbalula had said they were considering seven options to resolve the impasse.

Among the options was the cancellation of e-tolls scheme, shared e-tolling, selling GFIP to a private consortium, and introducing a public transport fund on freeways to support GFIP.

There was also a hybrid funding model, comprising taxes, fuel levies, and licence fees, to subsidise e-toll fees, physical toll plaza installations, and implementing the e-toll scheme as it was intended.

Political Bureau

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