South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) may well be hoping to redeem itself from the financial mess caused through e-tolls with a new amendment bill to alter how pay roads are implemented in future.
A draft bill aims to address the public outcry which arose as a result of the implementation of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project in 2013.
Sanral spent R20 billion loan to kickstart the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project while to date motorists owe the agency more than R6 billion in unpaid tolls.
Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona told HuffPost it was no secret that the tolling system had not exactly gone as planned.
"That's not a revelation, that's in the public domain," Mona said when asked how much debt the agency is in. Mona also acknowledged that the implementation of e-toll has been "challenging".
"The scheme has been owed millions of Rands, so do you think I'm going to sit here and say it was a success?"
The bill will be presented to Parliament and includes measures to have a more inclusive e-tolling system after widespread anger that decisions were made by national government with scant consultation with the public or local government.
If the Bill is approved, premiers in different provinces where the toll roads are set to developed will be consulted about where the toll gates will be built. The councillor in the area where the tollgate will be erected is expected to also be informed about any plans going forward.
The amendment also seeks to ensure that there are alternative roads which will be used by those who cannot afford to pay for tolls.
People have 30 days to make representations and if there is opposition of more than 55 percent, a referendum must be held.
'We told them so'
"They borrowed too much. The road construction costs were way over the top," said Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) chairperson Wayne Duvenage.
Outa has been at the forefront of the fight against the introduction of the tolling system and presented Sanral with reasons why the system would not get the support of South Africans.
"We told them [Sanral] it was going to fail but they said they've done their homework, we[Outa] disagreed with them..." he said.
Outa said an increase in fuel levy is one of the ways Sanral could have avoided financial problems and government's allocation to public infrastructure.
"We said all along if the government had increased the fuel levy by 9 cents back in 2007 when they made the e-toll decision they would have settled their bond," Duvenage said.
He also said failure of the tolling system was not a surprise as others countries have also been unable to implement it effectively.Suggest a correction