Public engagement – a clear rejection of e-tolls
Once again, as was the case in Kempton Park, the message was a resounding ‘NO TO ETOLL’. Despite the efforts by the Department of Transport to focus the meeting on a discussion of the proposed tariffs and exemptions, many expressed their sheer anger and lack of initial consultation on the proposal to implement e-tolling.
The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) has consistently maintained that, for the size and impact of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), Government engaged at the absolute bare minimum level with Gauteng residents and road users in 2007, when they received only 28 responses to their advertisements to toll. At that time, they ought to have been far more open and accommodating in seeking public and business opinion, with far greater clarity on what and how this plan was to operate. Government should not be surprised by the uproar and backlash they are receiving from the public, who find it illogical to discuss tariffs and exemption’s when they do not have confidence or support for the proposal to toll in the first place.
Nevertheless, given the Inter Ministerial Committee’s (IMC) recent engagement with various stakeholders, including OUTA, and their subsequent recommendation to Cabinet to proceed with e-tolls, OUTA calls upon the IMC to make public the key features and rationale which lead to their recommendation. Failure to do so, easily suggests that the process was a mere exercise in public relations and will suggest that this current round of engagement is a further charade.
“We have been encouraged to witness the interaction at these public consultations” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA's chairperson, “as it highlights the sentiment and negative reaction to e-tolls which has been expressed by the public since the realisation of this irrational plan.” This confirms the same reactions we are witnessing in the social media space and on polls conducted by TV and other media over the past year. Clearly we see a growing chorus and call by the public to simply not participate in e-tolls, to “tag- down” so to speak and as we have said for months now, the lack of public participation in this irrational scheme will ultimately become SANRAL’s biggest hurdle and will make the system unworkable.
The people’s judicial review in the high court, driven by OUTA, will be heard on 26 to 28 November in the North Gauteng High Court.