E-TOLLING has finally been approved by President Jacob Zuma less than a year before the general election – and with the ANC’s alliance partner, Cosatu, and other civic groups still vehemently opposed to it.
Earlier this month, international credit ratings agency Moody’s Investor Services downgraded the National Roads Agency’s debt, citing cash-flow pressure caused by the long delays in the introduction of e-tolling.
"E-tolling was initially expected to begin in June 2011 and its revenue was expected to absorb the company’s mounting debt-service costs,” said Moody’s at the time.
Zuma signed into law the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill yesterday, paving the way for e-tolling, the Presidency said.
Sanral is now empowered to start e-tolling on Gauteng’s freeways.
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) chairman Wayne Duvenage warned the government to be prepared for a backlash from society.
"They have been saying they are ready. We say ‘Go ahead’,” said Duvenage.
It remained to be seen whether the government and Sanral could implement the tolling system – and enforce the collection of tolls.
"There is massive opposition to this,” Duvenage said.
The alliance has been litigating against e-tolling in Gauteng since early last year. Judgment on whether the e-tolling of Gauteng’s freeways should be reviewed was reserved by the Supreme Court of Appeal yesterday.
The court heard an appeal by Outa in its legal challenge against Sanral, the transport minister and the Treasury.
Duvenage said after yesterday’s proceedings that he was "not 100% confident; we think it could go either way”.
Whatever the outcome, Sanral is keen to start clawing back the foregone tolls.
Duvenage called the government’s decision to sign e-tolling into law "strange”.
"It doesn’t make it any more rational now that you’ve got the tick from the boss,” he said. – Additional reporting by Sapa