First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

We need so many more of our readers to join them. The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country. We are inundated with tip-offs; we know where to look and what to do with the information when we have it – we just need the means to help us keep doing this work.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Scrap the ill-conceived Gauteng e-toll scheme now — a...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

Scrap the ill-conceived Gauteng e-toll scheme now — and stop the sabre-rattling on the fuel levy

mm

Wayne Duvenage is a businessman and entrepreneur turned civil activist. Following former positions as CEO of AVIS and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, Duvenage has headed the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse since its inception in 2012.

A new round of sabre-rattling by the state is under way in retaliation for the civil defiance campaign that brought the ill-conceived Gauteng e-toll money-making scheme to its knees. Gwede Manatashe’s recent threats of further hikes to the fuel levy to offset e-toll losses is without substance — and nonsensical.

The suggestion to fund the 186km Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) from general tax allocations — which the fuel levy feeds into — was proposed by civil society in 2011 as an alternative mechanism to the irrational, cumbersome and expensive e-toll scheme.

Adding fuel to the fire, Nazir Alli’s Sanral team had lost control of the project’s construction costs between 2008 and 2012, and what ought to have been no more than a R9-billion bond (requiring around R500-million to finance per annum), came in at R18-billion. Using the public’s money, the state now had to fork out around R1-billion per annum to finance the inflated bond requirements, an expensive blunder courtesy of Sanral’s mismanagement. 

Nonetheless, even at R1-billion per annum to settle an expensive R18-billion GFIP bond over 20 years, the easiest option for the Treasury was to simply increase its annual allocation to Sanral by this amount. And if it was unable to find the additional funds for Sanral, a last resort, 5c/litre increase to the fuel levy would have raised the required R1-billion from just more than 23 billion litres of fuel sold each year.

And guess what it did?

Not only did it try to coerce the public to pay their e-toll bills, Treasury steadily increased the fuel levy by an average of 20c every year, raising the levy from R1.27 in 2008/9 (when it started the GFIP) to R3.83 in 2021. This has increased Treasury’s annual fuel levy income from about R25-billion in 2009 to R85-billion today. And all it needed was R1-billion per annum to enable the freeway network upgrade of South Africa’s economic hub.

When the reality of Sanral’s e-toll shortfall hit home in 2014/15 — a year after the scheme was launched — Treasury began allocating additional GFIP grant funds to Sanral, exactly as Outa had suggested it do. Over the six years from 2015/16 to 2021, Treasury has allocated an average of R2.3-billion per annum to Sanral (a total of R13.5-billion) to cover the GFIP bonds. In addition, Treasury also increased its annual “non-toll” road grant allocation to Sanral from R4.1-billion in 2009 to R17.2-billion in 2021.

Adding more certainty to the government’s confused state of mind on the matter are occasional utterances by politicians who refer to costly penalties if the e-toll scheme is cancelled. This is sheer tripe, as the Electronic Toll Collections contract with Sanral expired three years ago in December 2018 and cancellation penalties have not been applicable since then. 

Furthermore, if the scheme is shut down tomorrow, Sanral loses nothing from the R55-million income it currently collects each month, as it will merely stop collecting money that is used to pay for the collection process. Nothing is being allocated to the tarmac.

So the next time Minister Mantashe (or any other politician) tells you that it will cost citizens more to scrap the e-toll scheme than it does to keep it going, tell them to take a hike. And while you’re at it, tell them they don’t need another cent added to the already bloated fuel levy, because they have more than enough to settle the GFIP bonds.

Tell them to do the maths and that 10c/litre from the existing R3.83 fuel levy will more than cover the inflated GFIP bond, including outstanding interest for the past decade.

At the same time, ask Mr Mantashe and his Cabinet colleagues to focus instead on reducing corruption, maladministration and wasteful expenditure, as this is where they will find plenty of cash to address our mountain of debt incurred from GFIP, Medupi, Kusile, SAA and other costly escapades undertaken by the ANC led-government.

Of all the policy blunders our government has made since democracy, the Gauteng e-toll debacle tops the cake. There is nothing more embarrassing and tragic than a government that is unable to manage or enforce its newly hatched policies.

Today, the state is left with two options on the e-toll debacle, the first of which is to humble itself and take the decision to scrap the scheme or second, to continue kicking the can down the road, hoping the issue will fade away and thereby negate the first option.

I’m sorry to say Mr Mantashe, the public and Outa will not allow the second option to be, so it’s time to halt his nonsensical drivel and eat that humble pie. DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 6

  • I live in the Western Cape, and will not like paying extra for Gautenger convenience. That is what Wayne is proposing. I dont syppose he would like to pay extra to commission the second Huegenot tunnel bore , or a Somerset West bypass ?

    Having said thst, improvements do help commercial traffic as well. That has benefits outside its own region, so there can be some horse trading. Easily accomplished by time relsted toll rates.

    • Paul, I hope you see the tongue in my cheek when you read my comment….having the WC to contribute to pay for Gauteng roads will be a drop in the ocean (forgive the pun) compared to the money Gauteng residents pump into the WC company for the marvelous wine, fantatic restaurants, and biltong prices every year….

    • An efficient road network is a national asset. I’m happy to pay for decent roads anywhere in the country and a fuel levy is a monumentally cheap and efficient way to collect that money. It’s better than giving away 30%. I think that was the number thrown about as the “cost to collect” e-tolls.

    • Well, I could argue that I don’t like paying for your Western Cape schools; or for your dams. The fuel levy monies go into national fiscus; they pay for everyone and are not ring-fenced. But I can assure you that were this GFIP to succeed in scamming us all then there won’t be a single road that isn’t tolled eventually any where in SA.
      Maybe you missed Wayne’s point that they increased the fuel levy anyway, far above what is needed to pay for even then GFIP.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted