The deadline for the scrapping of e-tolls has been delayed due to the Gauteng Provincial and National governments not reaching an agreement on how the outstanding debts for the construction of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) will be settled.
Rumours abound that there will be an additional Gauteng-only fuel levy, increased driver license and vehicle license fees, increased casino taxes, and even retaining certain tolls.
The DA rejects these additional taxes outright.
It has been reported that the outstanding debt for the GFIP construction costs stands at R43 billion, of which the Gauteng Government must repay R12,9 billion. Concerns have been raised about these figures as the government has contributed over R22,4 billion towards e-tolls to Sanral since 2012, according to OUTA.
Gauteng committed to paying the e-toll debt and a further R2 billion for the maintenance of the highways over the next three years and refunding motorists who paid e-tolls almost R7 billion.
Shockingly, the Gauteng government agreed to this deal without knowing beforehand how it would be able to pay its share. The DA maintains that the imposition of e-tolls in Gauteng was a national decision and that the national government should foot the entire bill.
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi also committed that the current budget allocations in Gauteng will not be affected and that additional funds will be raised to fund these commitments. However, it is unclear how he plans to do it.
Clearly the plan to replace e-tolls with another form of tax on Gauteng residents is so that the Gauteng government can cover its newly acquired liability towards the scrapping of the system. It is the only way additional revenue can be generated, to the detriment of residents. This is not what the residents of Gauteng want.
It is also likely that the R12,9 billion liability will be much more than the current amount as the Gauteng provincial government wants to pay the liability off over the long term. This repayment plan will attract further interest and cause the liability to balloon. The R12,9 billion is already inordinately high.
The DA believes that an alternative solution should be sought to reduce the liability on both the Gauteng government and the residents of Gauteng. The province cannot afford further pressures that inhibit economic growth. The DA believes that under expenditure by government departments should be utilized to pay towards the e-toll loans as a starting point. The current very high taxes on fuel can also be used to contribute towards the repayment of loans. These are just two proposals that do not require any additional taxes.
The DA will continue to keep holding the Gauteng Government accountable for its commitment to scrap e-tolls and ensure that Gauteng residents are not burdened with any new taxes.