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Gauteng’s e-toll battle is far from over

As one of the first crusaders against the controversial e-toll system, the FF Plus noted the transfer of SANRAL's debt burden to the national and Gauteng provincial government. However, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, still needs to formally abolish the system.

Thus far, all that has happened, though, is that the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, in his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) transferred the poison cup of the costs of developing the e-toll system and upgrading the Gauteng highway from SANRAL to national and Gauteng taxpayers.

How the debt will be financed remains an open question and the FF Plus will keep monitoring the situation.

The hated e-toll system is not officially dead yet, so the pressure on the ANC to finally put an end to it must be maintained, and likewise, to hold those who created this monster accountable.

The FF Plus is, therefore, launching a new campaign against e-toll, and the ANC that created it.

The first objective is ensuring that the ANC government in Gauteng delivers on its promise to abolish the system in its entirety.

Both the former Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, and the current Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, promised on more than one occasion to abolish the system through an agreement with the national ANC government.

Thus far, their attempts have borne no fruit and their promises are no more than empty words.

If the system is not scrapped, or is partially retained in some form, the FF Plus will try to, as part of a new Gauteng coalition government after the 2024 elections, bring a court application against the national government compelling it to abolish the system.

Such a court application will only be necessary if the ANC is still governing on national level at that time.

If a coalition government, of which the FF Plus will surely be a part, however, governs on national level, the FF Plus will ensure that the system is scrapped.

If it is necessary for the provincial coalition government to file the court application, the e-toll system's legality, or lack thereof, will finally be adjudicated on behalf of Gauteng residents, without them having to pay for the legal costs directly.

The second objective is to ensure that those responsible for creating the e-toll system are held accountable.

If e-toll is finally scrapped, the truth concerning the system's origin and its legality, or lack thereof, must be determined by establishing a commission of inquiry.

If national government does not want to establish such a commission, the FF Plus will, as governing partner in the Gauteng coalition government, make sure that a provincial commission of inquiry is created.

If e-toll is not abolished now, the FF Plus will see to it that the truth comes out in the planned court case between the Gauteng coalition government and the national government, which the FF Plus wants to initiate as a governing partner.

Arising from either the commission of inquiry or the court application, all persons and role players who may have been involved in creating the system must be held personally liable as far as is legally possible.

That includes service providers. All irregular revenue earned must be recovered, including that of overseas service providers if accountability has been determined.

Lastly, the FF Plus wants to determine whether there exist sufficient legal grounds for all persons who paid e-toll to recover those funds through a class action.

A few years ago, the FF Plus discovered by means of parliamentary questions that the e-toll system's measuring instruments were never certified by the standard authorities.

So, it was technically functioning unlawfully for quite some time. Any funds collected during this time must be paid back.

If it is found that the entire process of creating and implementing the e-toll system was unlawful, then all funds collected since the inception of the system must be paid back.

The FF Plus was the first organisation to realise that existing and already paid highways would be electronically tolled and in February 2011, the party launched an online petition that attracted 130 000 signatures in just three weeks.

And ever since then, the FF Plus has led from the front in the fight against e-toll in Parliament, and also gave its full support to OUTA to fight the matter in court.

Through me (an MP at the time), the FF Plus also succeeded in amending the SANRAL Act to allow all interested parties access to any economic impact studies when a new toll system is planned.

It enables interested parties to be better informed when evaluating and opposing any new toll system.

The FF Plus feels that it is its duty to see to it that e-toll breathes its last breath and that those who imposed it on Gauteng are held accountable.

 

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