On 27 March South Africa entered a State of Emergency. As a result of this determination by the President of the Republic of South Africa, only essential services were allowed to operate. This included the transportation of essential goods on the country’s national, provincial and municipal roads.
In order to facilitate the transportation of these goods, the Minister of Transport Mr Fikile Mbalula on 30 March gazetted that the operations of the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL) would be classified as an essential service. This was done to allow SANRAL and its concession operators to be able to continue to staff toll booths and undertake essential maintenance of the road networks.
In addition, it allows SANRAL to ensure that there is seamless mobility on the national road network. This is done by maintaining core staff to operate the Freeway Management System (FMS) and monitor the road network for rapid and effective incident responses.
During this time of lockdown, it is critical that our national road networks remain open and functioning to ensure we can facilitate the transport of essential goods and the economy continues to operate, even if at reduced levels.
It is disappointing and disingenuous that the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has instead used the Covid-19 crisis as a mechanism to once again try and score cheap publicity points by calling for the scrapping of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), or e-tolls as it is commonly known.
The Cabinet has stated clearly that it is engaged with the matter of e-tolls and would at the right time communicate its decision. No amount of propaganda and disinformation from Outa is going to alter the process outlined by Government.
Of critical importance at this stage should be the sustainability of SANRAL in order to ensure that necessary national road network construction and maintenance work is carried out in order to ensure that the economic recovery plan is supported through seamless mobility of goods and people.
Until a decision on e-tolls has been determined, we call on all South Africans to work together to ensure we can emerge stronger from this crisis. An important part of that will be the role we all play in paying for the services we consume, including usage of the country’s national road network. If we don’t, the damage to our economy will be even greater and have a far wider and longer impact.