Opinionista Wayne Duvenage 20 November 2014

Nice Work Sanral, continue with this epic ignorance

Dr Roelof Botha’s suggestion that those unaffected by e-tolls should “shut up” is not the first comment that demonstrates the arrogant attitude displayed by Sanral and the department of transport towards South Africa’s hard working citizens.

Sanral’s Vusi Mona recently told a member of the public who questioned his logic on radio to “raise her IQ” and previous transport minister, Sbu Ndebele, once remarked that those not wanting to pay e-tolls should travel by train.

What is it with Sanral’s bumbling economists and directors who lay claim to sound economic modeling that has clearly missed the mark? Do they really believe in the success of the system? For two years prior to the launch of e-tolls, we heard of the economic benefit value of an 8.4:1 benefit to cost return for road users paying through the e-toll model. This was their theory in 2010 but, since the completion of the freeway upgrade in 2012, they have had ample time to put their thinking to a live test yet none has been conducted. Why not?

Their argument uses the logic that time saved on the less congested freeways can be directly converted to an income equivalent to an individual’s salary (largely confined to the top quintile earning citizens). This implies that if one arrives early to work in the morning or home in the evening, the road user actually earns more money in their bank account. How absurd is that?

Most intriguing, though, was Botha’s claim, made during a chat with 702’s Xolani Gwala on Wednesday, that if the road users took the time to understand the benefits of the wider roads they now enjoy, they would happily get their e-tags and pay for these roads. The question is, then, why have the public not seen it that way and tagged up? Could it be that Botha is implying the millions of non-compliant road users are just plain stupid?

Botha’s remark smacks of an individual who speaks down to the millions who disagree with his frustrated logic, arguing that without e-tolls, the ‘fancy’ Gauteng Freeway upgrade would never have happened. His statement implies that road building needs to be a showpiece and based on a financially viable tolling model, as if no alternative to this has existed for as long as we have built roads in South Africa.

Botha’s anti-fuel levy approach for road funding, on the basis that the poor will be most affected, must therefore be translated as a direct criticism of government for increasing the fuel levy by 100% (from R1.11 to R2.20) since the construction of the Gauteng Freeway began in 2008. His silence against this action by government over the past six years has been deafening.

Please do not shut-up, Dr Botha, for your arrogance and contempt for the poor and other tax paying citizens has done more damage to Sanral’s cause than its critics ever could. Your medal is in the post. DM

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