Dear Minister Mbalula,
In June we congratulated you on your appointment and outlined several areas of our transport environment we believe need urgent attention. These included road safety, the AARTO legislation, law enforcement, and pedestrian safety. In this spirit of playing an active role as a partner to the Department of Transport, we would like to engage with you on the issue of road funding and, specifically, of e-tolls in Gauteng.
The Automobile Association (AA) conducts in-depth research on a variety of issues throughout the year. Our most recent research relates to road funding. The findings of this research, we believe, may be of interest to you and your colleagues in national and provincial government as you deliberate the future for e-tolls in Gauteng.
The findings of the research are clear and unambiguous: the current model for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) has failed and will continue to fail if pursued.
This is not the view of the AA. This is the view of those who are being asked to pay for the e-tolls system.
The research indicates that people will not pay under the current conditions, and that debt is not a factor in these decisions. The findings highlight explicitly that most users are not paying because of a principled position taken years ago and that no amount of cajoling or enticement will change their minds.
In addition, compliance remains low and continues to drop because of the confusion resulting from different messaging from provincial and national government on e-tolls, and the announcement in March that historic debt will not be pursued. This, along with SANRAL’s treatment of Gauteng motorists with an iron fist in an iron glove, continues to exacerbate an already heavily-indebted system.
Through the research, we reviewed the road funding models of other countries, and our own previous comments on e-tolls. We have concluded, as we did when the GFIP funding model was first proposed, that the only fair, feasible, and effective method of collection remains linking it to the General Fuel Levy (GFL).
Pursing any alternative, we believe, will prove fruitless and will only further harden the position of those who are not paying.
Ring-fencing of a specific amount linked to the GFL is, therefore, the only viable solution. And, contrary to certain claims, this is a workable solution, evidenced by the fact that the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy, for instance, has been ring-fenced for many years.
In a press release we issued in late July, we noted:
“Ring-fencing alleviates many of the problems currently experienced and will immediately have an impact on the funding of the GFIP. Given the huge resistance to e-tolls in Gauteng, finding a workable and sustainable solution should be everyone’s goal. This is, and always has been, that solution; it is one we have been advocating since e-tolls was first on the table.”
We further noted that there is not now, nor will there ever be, a collection system based on the gantries and ETC’s (proven inefficient) model of collection that will work.
Given the above, we urge you and your colleagues deliberating on the future of e-tolls to consider the following as the only way forward:
1. The immediate suspension of e-tolling Gauteng;
2. The immediate reimbursement of monies collected to those few who have paid to date;
3. The introduction of a levy linked to the General Fuel Levy which is ring-fenced for e-tolls (note: this can be done on a provincial basis), and, finally;
4. The immediate cessation of harassment by SANRAL of motorists who remain committed not to pay under the current model.
We believe implementing these steps will go a long way to regaining the trust of Gauteng motorists, and South Africans in general, which has unfortunately been eroded over the course of the disastrous e-toll implementation.
We again thank you for taking the time to consider our inputs and trust, as we stated in our previous communication, that you will engage with the AA on this, and other transport and transport-related matters affecting consumers going forward.
Automobile Association of South Africa
See the AA's Road Funding report here.