Sort out e-tolls by August - Cabinet's instruction to Mbalula, Mboweni and Makhura

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Gauteng Premier David Makhura have been tasked by cabinet to come up with a solution – or "workable outcomes" in government-speak – for e-tolling on Gauteng freeways by the end of August.

"President Ramaphosa has mandated Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Gauteng Premier David Makhura to find a solution to the e-tolling on Gauteng freeways, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said on Thursday morning in a briefing on the outcomes of the previous day's cabinet meeting.

"The consultations within government over the coming weeks are expected to produce workable outcomes, which will be submitted to Cabinet by the end of August 2019.

"A united response across government is required on issues such as e-tolling to ensure South Africans have confidence in the work of government," Mthembu said.

The electronic tolls charged by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has been a bugbear of especially Gauteng motorists even before it has been instituted in December 2013. 

Last week Monday, in his State of the Province Address, Makhura said e-tolls would be scrapped, in accordance to a resolution that was initially taken at the Gauteng ANC conference in July 2018

Mboweni wasn't impressed and made this known on twitter, as is his wont.

"I don’t know why the middle and upper classes in Gauteng want to complicate our lives. The working class do not pay e-tolls!! Public transport! Hello…" Mboweni tweeted.

Mboweni also warned Makhura not to "pick a fight" with the finance minister who is in charge of provincial allocations, Fin24 reported. 

"I am certain that the Premier of Gauteng knows that you have to be careful before you pick up a fight with a National Minister of Finance. The one who controls allocations! I would be careful if I were him," he tweeted.

Makhura responded on Twitter to say that he had asked Ramaphosa to determine a "final resolution" for the e-tolls, adding that Mboweni is just a minister and not the president.

The Presidency then issued a statement calling the Twitter-exchanges "unfortunate and regrettable".

"The President says such exchanges on social media are unbecoming of their high offices and fail to provide the leadership required in this instance.

"The public interest is best served through collaboration, not conflict, and the appropriate platform for leaders to express and reconcile differing views is Cabinet and other coordination forums," the statement read.

On Tuesday, Mbalula delivered his budget vote address, stating that government was aware of the overwhelming demand for the project to be scrapped, but that debt obligations complicated the situation.

"Fellow South Africans, we are seized with the process to find a lasting solution to the demand to scrap e-tolls in Gauteng.

"A task team was established - made up of the Department of Transport, Sanral, the Gauteng province and National Treasury - to look decisively at all relevant issues and make firm recommendations.

"The process of engagement [is] ongoing and various options toward the resolution of this challenge are being processed by the team. The options being considered also include the feasibility of a mechanism through which the debt incurred in the construction of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project can be paid," Mbalula said.