Confusion over as government finally decides to scrap e-tolls

The government has reached an agreement to switch off the e-toll gantries on April 11, 2024. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

The government has reached an agreement to switch off the e-toll gantries on April 11, 2024. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 30, 2024



Finally, confusion is over after the government announced its intention to scrap e-toll and remove gantries.

This as the government took responsibility for its promise to switch off the gantries.

This follows a proclamation in the Government Gazette published on Thursday.

The gazette, signed by Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, scraps e-toll gantries in Gauteng.

This will see the system being switched off on April 11.

The e-toll scheme has been a matter of discontent for civil organisations and thousands of Gauteng motorists, who have been opposing it since the first e-toll gantries since switched on in December 2013.

In his State of the Province Address in February, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi announced that e-tolls would be switched off by March 31, adding that the province has also agreed to pay R12 billion towards Sanral’s e-toll debt to finalise the matter.

However, Lesufi’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla last week abandoned the promise, saying Sanral was a national entity and the provincial government was not responsible for gazetting and switching off the e-tolls. He said Lesufi’s remarks were guided by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s announcement to end the e-tolls in his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in 2022.

This was after the DA Gauteng premier candidate Solly Msimanga urged Lesufi to come clean about his promise and be clear about when the gantries would be switched off. Msimanga said this is because the switching off of the e-toll gantries must be gazetted 14 days before the proposed date, and this has not happened.

In a statement published on Thursday (yesterday), Chikunga said this followed an agreement reached in a meeting between her, Godongwana and Lesufi.

The meeting was held on March 27.

Chikunga said the parties agreed that to put this decision into effect, the gazette amending the initial declarations of the Gauteng Freeway Network as tolled roads must be published on Thursday.

She said the parties also agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) to formalise alternative funding solutions for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) debt repayment and deal with the backlog of maintenance and rehabilitation.

“Parties also agreed that the MoA would also regulate the financial and funding contribution towards the Sanral liability in compliance with the policy objectives and institutional framework for road infrastructure management in South Africa.

“Parties were unanimous that terms needed to be set in black and white on the MoA for the Gauteng province to contribute to the backlog of maintenance and rehabilitation costs,” said Chikunga, who added that parties also emphasised the fact that the government was already far advanced with its plans to re-purpose the e-toll infrastructure to improve mobility, road safety, and combat crime.

Lesufi said the provincial government has always been clear that whilst there is a general acceptance of the user-pays principle and willingness to pay for current and future upgrades of roads and public transport infrastructure, in its current form, the e-toll system was unaffordable.

In its statement, Sanral said it has been agreed that:

- Gauteng to pay 30% (R12.93bn) of Sanral’s debt to the national government

- Gauteng to contribute to backlog maintenance (R4.1bn)

- National Treasury to cover 100% of Sanral debt.

Sanral CEO Reginald Demana said: “This resolution allows us to conclude our long-outstanding application for increased borrowing limits from the National Treasury. We hope that this will furthermore allow us to go to the market and unlock funding from the private sector to fund our existing pipeline of brownfield, shovel-ready toll road capital expenditure projects.”

Godongwana also said that the National Treasury was pleased that an agreement that gives expression to the commitment made in the 2022 MTBPS speech has finally been concluded.

“The outstanding issues on the future of the GFIP had become a source of uncertainty, not only to road users, but also to Sanral and its bondholders, as well as current and potential investors in the province’s infrastructure development.

Gauteng’s commitment to contribute to the backlog, maintenance and rehabilitation costs, in addition to the outstanding debt, represents a sustainable way forward while ensuring the quality of the province’s roads is maintained,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in Gauteng has welcomed the decision, saying it views the end of e-tolls as a victory for the people of the province, who have been defiant against it for nearly a decade.

“Gauteng motorists have been the ones who were unfairly saddled with this unworkable system. The IFP salutes citizens for their resolve in not paying for a system that only sought to abuse their right to fair access and use public freeways in their province.”

[email protected]