The government scraps disastrous e-tolls amid a national backlash

The government has officially decided to scrap the controversial and heavily criticised e-tolls system by the end of this week.

The decision came following an agreement between the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), the Gauteng provincial government, and the national treasury.

E-tolls have been a major thorn for Gauteng motorists, with many refusing to pay their bills, which brought the system to its knees.

Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on Wednesday, transport minister Sindisiwe Chikunga stated that the obligation to pay e-tolls remains until midnight on April 11, 2024.

“On April 11, 2024, at 23:59:59, road users will no longer be charged for the use of the Gauteng e-toll routes.”

“Road users will no longer be charged for the use of the e-toll network. This means that after midnight tomorrow, e-tolls will no longer exist. However, the ring roads that formed part of this scheme will remain national roads.

“It has been a long process that started in December 2013 after we upgraded parts of important national roads in Gauteng, which had come a few years before that (in 2008), to ensure that the economic hub of South Africa is not jeopardised by poor roads. Before the upgrades, the roads were extremely congested and had a negative effect on the country’s economy.”

Minister Chikunga added that the system of e-tolling was implemented after some consultation had taken place. “Was it enough, and could we have done stakeholder engagement differently? Clearly, the resistance by Gauteng motorists and various other stakeholders suggests we could have consulted widely and done things differently. But that is now water under the bridge.”

“This matter caused a lot of public aggravation and was indeed of great concern to the Cabinet. It is a concern that led to the formation of a three-member committee, made up of the Minister of Transport, Minister of Finance, and Gauteng Premier, charged by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2019 to find a solution to the impasse.”

“One of the issues we had to grapple with as a committee was how SANRAL was going to repay the debt it incurred to build this infrastructure and how we ensure that the roads remain up to the standards to which our road users have now become accustomed.”

It has not been an easy process or decision because we were essentially being asked to deviate from a principle that is universally accepted: you have to pay for whatever you use,” concluded Minister Chikunga.

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