Mboweni's 'pay our tolls' remark draws ire of Cosatu, Fedusa

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni must explain to the ANC and its Alliance members where he gets the mandate from to call on South Africans to pay for tolls, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said in a statement.

The trade union calls for "a push back" against what it calls "the plan to resuscitate e-tolls".

During his mini budget speech on 24 October, Mboweni said that, if SA wants a transport system that works, "we need to pay our tolls".

Cosatu, on the other hand, said it wants to send a clear message to government that "we will only be governed by consent, and we will never allow ourselves to be bullied by those we have elected".

The union regards Mboweni's statement on e-tolls as "provocative". It regards the e-toll system as "unjust and exploitative".

"Many people have not bought e-tags and they have since refused to cooperate with Sanral and making the system unworkable," states the union.

Cosatu called on Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande "to start implementing the decisions of both the ANC and the Alliance to do away with e-tolls and find an alternative funding model to pay for road improvements".

The union sees what it calls the lack of an integrated public transport system as the main reason why many motorists have no alternative means of getting to and from work.

"Workers bitterly resent having to pay twice for road improvements which they have already paid for through taxes and the fuel levy," said Cosatu.

Cosatu is not the only union to express a dislike in Mboweni's call to pay e-tolls.

Riefdah Ajam, deputy general secretary of the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), told Parliament's standing committee on finance that Mboweni's statement is "irresponsible and short of insulting millions of workers reliant on the cheapest form of transport to get to work".

The standing and select committees on finance on Wednesday heard submissions from the public on the mini budget.

In Ajam's view, the principle of the "user pays" will not be beneficial and "contradicts" government's plans to invest in a rail network.

During the same briefing Matt Johnson of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) described the "user pay" principle as "brilliant" but added that the reality is "people don't want to pay and won't pay".

"Enough money is being collected through the fuel levy and other taxes to the cover costs of using roads. People's won't pay because the cost of living is too high, and fuel is expensive," said Johnson.

Fin24 reported earlier in October that Auditor General Kimi Makwetu has expressed concern about the financial stability of the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) in Gauteng due to resistance by motorists to pay for e-tolls.

Fin24 reported at the time that, after scrambling to find funding to make up for a gap of R6bn, Sanral has reportedly started issuing summonses to motorists in Gauteng who have defaulted on their toll debt.

In its comment on the mini budget the DA expressed serious concerns about what it regards as "a supposed R5.7bn bailout for the failed e-toll system in Gauteng".

"In the budget, R3bn was transferred from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to Sanral’s non-toll network. This R3bn and an additional R2.7bn was then moved from Sanral’s non-toll network to the Sanral Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, informally known as e-tolls," the DA stated in a statement on its website.

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