E-tolls victory proof of the power of a united voice

Premier of Gauteng Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers

Premier of Gauteng Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 21, 2024


It has been almost two years since Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said discussions over the scrapping of the Gauteng e-tolls had started.

And it has been just over a decade since e-toll gantries went live on a 187km stretch of Gauteng highways, as part of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project.

Launched in October 2007, the project was deceiving in that it happened during the preparations for the Fifa World Cup South African 2010, while the country was a construction site, literally. Thus the highway improvement appeared to be part of the preparations.

But as time went on, it came to light that the South African National Roads Agency Ltd had borrowed billions to upgrade the highways, and needed the user-pays model to help service the debt.

After several years of delays due to court challenges and a public outcry, e-tolls went live at midnight on Monday, December 2, 2013.

The battle did not end there; Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse head Wayne Duvenage led an unprecedented civil disobedience campaign against e-tolls, later joined by unions, political parties and other civil movements.

Fast-track to Monday night, and delivering the State of the Province address, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi said the formal process to switch off and delink e-tolls would begin on March 31, 2024.

Lesufi said e-tolls would then “be history in our province”, and left it to Godongwana to “elaborate on this subject”, presumably in his Budget speech today.

It remains unclear what will happen to the Sanral debt as well as motorists and corporates who had been paying their e-toll fees over the years. But hey, every revolution has casualties.

If there are to be any take-away from the e-toll disaster, it is that government ought to take the views of the people into consideration when making decisions, and that the power of the people will always prevail.

It is with the same spirit that voters should approach the upcoming general election; use the power of a united voice wisely.

Pretoria News