e-Tolls will harm small business owners - Mmusi Maimane

DA Gauteng Premier candidate says SANRAL's own polls indicated that 48% of people would not be willing to pay

E-toll contracts: Sanral's own documents reveal that e-tolling won't work

Today I visited small business owners in Vusimusi, Thembisa to discuss the impact that e-tolling will have on their businesses and livelihoods.

Mr Mashapo is the owner of Big Eleven, a grocery trading store in Vusimusi, Tembisa and Mr Ngcobo, is the owner of a small butchery in the same area.

Both of these owners get their deliveries via the R21 where e-tolls are planned to be implemented. As a result they will be forced to increase the price of their goods due to the higher cost of deliveries, or lose money and possibly even their businesses.

This will have an impact on the community around them, which is already battling with high levels of unemployment and poverty. The inevitable price increases will make it harder for families to buy the food needed to get by every month.

It is for this reason that Mr Mashapo, Mr Ngcobo and the people of Vusimusi do not want e-tolls.

This is the story of many people across Gauteng. The people do not want e-tolls because it will make them poorer and increase poverty in communities across the province.

How then can Sanral go ahead with this project despite its negative impact? Did they not know this before the started?

The answer is that they did. In fact I can reveal today that Sanral knew from as early as 2009 that they are facing widespread opposition against e-tolling on Gauteng freeways. This is according to documents received recently by the DA following a PAIA application by DA Shadow Minister of Transport, Ian Ollis. 

According to the documents, a question was posed to gauge public acceptance of e-tolling as part of Sanral's initial market research.

The question asks: "The envisaged tolls for Gauteng Freeways will be automated, there will be no toll stations. Payment will be collected automatically. If there were two extra lanes on the freeways you normally travel on, saving you time would you be prepared to pay a toll?"

Though the question in itself raises serious concerns on how it was formulated to lead respondents to a positive outcome, baselessly claiming that more lanes will equal less time travelled, the results are nonetheless revealing.

Sanral's April 2009 documentation indicates that 69% of people were willing to pay a toll fee and that 39% of people would not be willing to pay toll fees. However, in an addendum, as part of the contract information, in June 2009, the results are amended indicating that 48% of people would not be willing to pay for e-tolls.

Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) and Sanral both agree that one of the critical success factors for the project as a whole include the high levels of public compliance.

ETC in its contract submission states that this opposition expressed in the market research presents a huge communication and marketing challenge to shift attitudes and behaviour of a significantly large group into acceptance, or at least compliance.

In fact they go as far to say that: "Should such a sizable group actively resist compliance, law enforcement will be serious hampered and could become virtually impossible to implement. Sizable active resistance could jeopardise the project as a whole".

ETC's submission also identifies the risk that a culture of non-payment could materialise based on past practical experiences with "grudge buys" - purchasing a right of passage instead of a tangible benefit.

The fact is that Sanral has known right from the beginning that the people of Gauteng do not want e-tolling.

Despite even their own research to the contrary, Sanral, backed by the Department of Transport, continues to force this system on the people of Gauteng.

That is why yesterday Minister Dipuo Peters said that she remains determined to ensure that AARTO works, despite the DA's revelations last week that more than R2 billion has not been collected in traffic fines.

I cannot stand by and allow this to go unanswered.

Our emerging entrepreneurs like Mr Mashabo and Mr Ncgobo deserve better. The people of Vusimusi in Thembisa deserve better. The people across the province deserve better.

They deserve a government that listens to them and their concerns.

If I become Premier of Gauteng, I will do everything possible to get rid of e-tolling. The DA knows that the people of Gauteng don't want and can't afford this system.

Statement issued by Mmusi Maimane, DA Premier Candidate for Gauteng, September 2 2013

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