e-tolls fikile mbalula

Photo: Flickr/Paul Saad

Government to divert funding from PRASA to save e-tolls – report

Further proof that e-tolls aren’t going anyway… for now.

e-tolls fikile mbalula

Photo: Flickr/Paul Saad

In an attempt to save the controversial e-tolls system from complete financial collapse, government is planning to divert funding from the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) to the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL).

The e-tolls saga – which has long been subject to controversy and public contestation – shows no signs of abating. Recently, the failing tolling system has caused fierce political rifts, as various departments battle both for and against the continued implementation of Gauteng’s most contentious carriageway scheme.

ANC torn on the e-tolls issue

While the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has flip-flopped on the e-tolls issue – calling for its immediate termination only to backtrack on its pre-election promises – opposition parties and civic organisations have dubbed the tolling system an outright failure.

The government still owes R67 billion for the improvements made to Gauteng’s roadway infrastructure – and with most motorists successfully boycotting the e-tolls system, the State’s debt continues to soar.

The debate surrounding e-tolls has fractured the ANC. Gauteng premier, David Makhura, recently reaffirmed his commitment to scrapping the e-tolls system. Finance minister, Tito Mboweni, however, argued that e-tolls were staying put and that motorists would be forced to cough up the costs.

This public spat, which was furthered by Mboweni on social media, has been condemned by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula.

E-tolls here to stay, at the expense of train commuters

Twitter wars aside, it’s clear that e-tolls will stay in place, at least for the time being. That puts government in a tight financial predicament; the system is bleeding money and putting SANRAL under severe strain.

Last year, government bailed SANRAL out with a cool R5.7 billion. In addition, funding destined for national road projects have been diverted to keep e-tolls afloat, essentially delaying improvements to other parts of the country.

While this decision garnered fierce criticism, a recent article, published by Rapport, shows that government is now going one step further to save e-tolls from drowning; funds meant to improve the embattled railway network of South Africa will be diverted to SANRAL.

According to the report, the Department of Transport plans to divert R2 billion to the flailing e-tolls system. This, in addition to the R3 billion already diverted last year as a ‘once off payment’ arrangement.

This has further enraged the South African public, who protest that the rail system – which is infamous for its poor track record – should be prioritised. It’s argued that the diversion of crucial funds further seeks to undermine the public.

The proposal to divert funds will be tabled before the National Assembly.