JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA. South Africa’s opposition political parties, various consumer lobby groups and concerned individuals in the province of Gauteng are bracing themselves for the ‘war’ that lies ahead: the battle over e-toll highways, an ‘unnecessarily’ expensive controversial project to be implemented by the government to raise money for road maintenance and rehabilitation.
South Africa might have the best infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, but most of its roads are infested with potholes and are poorly-maintained – a blunder that does not reflect the reality of the country’s status of Africa’s biggest economy.
As the e-toll battle looms, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has already said that it intends to fight tooth and nail over the controversial project.
“It’s the government versus the people of Gauteng now that SANRAL has announced that e-tolls on Gauteng highways will start within two months,” DA parliamentary provincial leader Jack Bloom said this week.
Government-controlled South African National Road Agency Limited (SANRAL) revealed that at least 600 000 e-tags have been registered.
South African motorists, already stressed by the rising cost of life, inconsistent fuel prices and by government’s nepotism and corruption, will have to pay a certain amount of money every time their vehicles pass through those e-tolls.
Gauteng, South Africa’s richest province and Africa’s fourth-biggest economy, has about four million officially registered vehicles.
Most of the e-tags have gone to government vehicles rather than ordinary members of the public, Bloom said, adding that the e-toll booths in shopping centres have not attracted many customers at all.
“SANRAL faces an uphill battle in getting public acceptance. The DA supports Gauteng motorists who exercise their free choice not to buy an e-tag,” he said in a statement.
But a government spokesperson has threatened motorists with arrest and jail time if they did not buy e-tags.
The government won the first round of the battle against the enemies of the e-toll project, after a High Court judge ruled that the e-toll project must go ahead as planned.
But the matter has since been referred to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which will make a ruling in September this year.
“Even at this late stage government should reconsider the e-tolls as public resistance could well make it unworkable,” Bloom said.
*Photo: courtesy of In4Ride.