Lesufi to borrow money to settle debt for scrapping e-tolls

Premier of Gauteng Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers

Premier of Gauteng Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 20, 2024


Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi has opened up on how the government is planning to scrap e-tolls which has for years been a concern to the province’s motorists.

Since December 2013, car users have been billed for using the province’s freeways that span Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Seven freeways make up the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, which paved the way for the freeways to be improved, forcing the tolls to be introduced.

Addressing the media yesterday, a day after his State of the Province Address on Monday, Lesufi said after many consultations with stakeholders and the national government they had decided that national world would pay 70% and province 30% of the debt owed for the construction of the e-tolls.

He said the 30% the province had committed to pay amounted to about R12 billion, which they would have to borrow from a financial institution.

“We had an option, the option was to pay the R12 billion immediately so we end the drama because it has been with us for a long time… but that was going to mean other departments would suffer.

“So we decided to go to a government financial institution to borrow that money… and there we can negotiate,” he said.

He made examples as to why it would be a better option to borrow the money than having to pay it back outright.

“For instance, instead of paying back say R1 billion in 25 years and we afford to pay R750 million and they accept that, it would be the best option. So that it allows us to have a longer payment period… there is a government institution that we have asked to lend us the funds,” he said.

He said the reason the decisions took long was because it was not simple to agree.

“We had to negotiate with national government and that took long. It was bargaining, it was not easy. People are impatient but it was not that simple.”

Lesufi said the tolls would be scrapped only in March because they needed to be ungazetted first.

During his speech on Monday, Lesufi confirmed that the scrapping of e-tolls. He said that he met with Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, who both agreed that the e-toll system should be scrapped.

“We have reached the stage where the people of Gauteng have rejected the e-toll system. We had a meeting with all affected parties. We have met with the finance minister and the minister of transport and both of them agree that the people of Gauteng have rejected the system. We have reached an agreement that by March 31, the system will be history,” he said.

Lesufi added that a clear way forward would be communicated by Godongwana in his Budget Speech today.

However, this is not Lesufi’s first mention of the scrapping of e-tolls, so it remains to be seen whether this will be realised

Lesufi made similar statements in October 2022 after shortly after Godongwana’s 2022 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. At the time, he indicated that the national and provincial governments would pay off Sanral’s debt on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), however, said it was not surprised by Lesufi’s continued “false” promises that he would scrap e-tolls.

CEO Wayne Duvenage said the provincial government had missed every single deadline they had set out for themselves, saying that Monday’s one was many of them.

Duvenage said there was no reason to proceed with the scrapping of the e-toll scheme, as the national treasury had already allocated the funds and the decision had been taken.

“The only two possible reasons for the delay are ineptitude to implement their decision, or possible nefarious use and syphoning of some of the estimated R40 million per month being raised by the scheme,” he added.

Late last year, Duvenage had said to deal with the e-toll saga the few remaining businesses that were continuing to keep the system on life support which were mainly the car rental and fleet management companies, needed to stop paying, as that would generate bigger losses to Sanral, who in turn would place government under pressure to implement the decision to scrap the scheme.

The Star


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