Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment "e-Toll" Bill: adoption, with Deputy Minister in attendance

NCOP Public Services

05 May 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Sibande (Mpumalanga, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Transport was present at the meeting, which was held to consider the adoption of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill (dealing with e-tolling). The Deputy Minister said that public participation had taken place, and assured Members that the Bill was going to work in the interest of the people of South Africa, allowing for the raising of capital to ensure that roads would be well managed and maintained. Roads in rural areas would be improved. The Department noted that the Western Cape Department of Transport had made submissions on the Bill, but its main concern was around the impact of e-tolling on the Western Cape economy. The Road Freight Association had concluded that e-tolling would be cost effective for the Association.

DA Members noted that whilst this party was not in principle opposed to e-tolling it did question where there had been proper public participation and commented that not everyone knew the implications of the Bill. There were further concerns about the impact of tolling, particularly to the poor, as it would raise the costs of transport. There were also concerns that the alternative routes to the toll roads were not in good condition. The COPE Member echoed these concerns, suggested that there was no need for South Africa to go this route, and questioned why there appeared to be such haste in having the Bill passed. Another COPE Member, and the DA, questioned how effective the Cross Border Road Transport Agency was likely to be in collecting tolls, with COPE saying that it would like to see it not having a role in the matter. ANC Members asserted that there had been proper public participation, that there was a need for this Bill, as evidenced by study tours that Members undertook to other countries, and that the Members themselves should also have promoted public understanding on the Bill.

The majority of Members, except the COPE representative, adopted the Bill, subject to the amendment of clause 4(c)(1B), which now required the Minister to table any draft regulations to Parliament for comment.

Meeting report

Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill [B30B-2012]
Ms Sindi Chikunga, Deputy Minister of Transport, thanked the Committee for inviting her to the meeting. She said that the Department of Transport (DOT or the Department) had done its job properly to make sure that public participation on the Bill, which was concerned with e-tolling, had taken place. She assured Members that the Department would make sure that the e-tolling was well managed, and that roads would be well maintained. Road infrastructure development was one of the key areas that the Department would be focusing on, and it would make sure that rural areas have good infrastructure. She noted that the Bill was in the interests of the people.

Mr Alex Van Niekerk, Project Manager, South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), said that there was a submission from Western Cape Provincial Department of Transport. Their main concern was about the impact of e-tolling on the Western Cape economy, as it feared that the Bill would cost too much money and have a negative impact on its economy. He also reported that the Road Freight Association had looked at the Bill, and done some calculations as how much the e-tolling would cost, which concluded that in fact e-tolling would be cost effective for the Association.

Discussion
Mr H Groenewald (North West, DA) said that in principle the DA was not against the e-tolling, but there should be public participation, and people did not know how e-tolling was going to work. Public participation should include everyone, including the media, and other stakeholders. He reiterated the concern that e-tolling was going to have an impact on the South Africa economy, particularly on the poor. The alternative roads that the Bill had suggested could be used were not really in good condition. He noted that the Bill clearly spelled out the role of the Cross Border Road Transport Agency (CBRTA), and he wondered how effective it was going to be in collecting the money for the tolls.

Mr D Feldman (Gauteng, COPE) said that he was from a rural area, and confirmed that most people there did not understand the Bill, which was why only one comment was submitted. He submitted that there really was no need for South Africa to copy what other international countries did. He questioned what the hurry was to have the Bill passed, and also asked if there had been proper public participation across the country.

Ms L Mabija (Limpopo, ANC) said that people were well aware of procedures that were followed when the Bill was introduced, and there was no problem with the Bill. South Africa was in need of road infrastructure development, and she believed this Bill was going to help the country to achieve that.

Ms M Themba (Mpumalanga, ANC) said that she did not know how other Members understood public participation. The country had public participation frameworks that clearly spelled out how public participation was to happen. It was up to Members to make sure that they understood the framework and educated the public. For example, if Members understood clause 56 of the Bill, then it was up to them to go out and educate their constituencies.

Mr M Jacobs (Free State, ANC) said that the process of public participation could not be endless, but it had to come to a stop at some point. There was a lot of public engagement on the Bill, and that, he believed, was why there was only one comment on the Bill. People should not criticise the Bill without coming up with alternatives. The issue of the e-tolling charges had been dealt with, and it was clear what levies were expected. He agreed with Ms Themba that Members, as representatives of the people, had to come forward and inform the public about what was happening in Parliament, without relying too much on the media. South Africa learnt from other countries, and it would continue doing so, and he cited study tours by Members as prime examples. South Africa offered alternative roads if other people did not want to use the toll roads. He believed that e-tolling had the potential to reduce traffic jams and time wasted on the road. He did, however, seek some further clarity on Mr Patel’s comment about the impact of the tolls.

Mr R Tau (Northern Cape, ANC) referred to the submissions and responses and reminded Members that last week he had suggested that the parties caucus on the Bill. To his mind, public participation had never been an issue. Parliament had a model in place for public participation, and the model specified tools that needed to be used for public participation, which were used, as evidenced by various issues over the last year. Currently, however, the Bill was with the Committee, who should decide what to do with it.  If the DA had a process that needed to be followed, then it should tell the Committee how it believed the Bill should be implemented. However, the DA’s philosophy was to support capitalism, which had to do with profit maximisation. He suggested that if the DA had another plan for road infrastructure, and suggestions on a budget and plan to run it, he would like to hear it. South Africa clearly needed capital for infrastructure development, and the e-tolling was the right step towards getting that.

Mr Tau noted that clause 4(c) referred to the Minister making any regulation contemplated in subsection (1), but the Committee wanted to amend that, to ensure that the Minister must submit a draft of the proposed regulation to Parliament for comment. With that amendment, the ANC would be happy to approve the Bill.

Mr Z Mlenzana (Eastern Cape, COPE) said that he would have preferred the Department of Transport  to clearly explain the use of alternative roads. He called for proof from the Department of Transport to clearly confirm that public participation took place. If the Department had used agencies for public participation, he wanted to hear that, because he felt that there was lack of clarity as to whether the Department had really consulted with the public on the Bill. He also asked why the CBRTA was being spelled out, in clause 1 of the Bill, as this was of concern to his party. He noted that clause 1(4) was worded to allow the agency to collect the toll on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency Limited, in terms of agreement, but thought that this should be amended.

The Chairperson remaindered the Committee that members took a trip to Japan and other countries, and had learned much that could be used in the country to improve capital and infrastructure. Rural areas needed substantial improvements. Mr Tau had clarified the issue of public participation, and Members needed to focus on the Bill. Members had to remember that submissions were also part of public participation.

Mr R Tau (Northern Cape) said that there was ample space for public participation and submissions during the process of this Bill. Essentially, the Bill dealt with the collection of e-tolling money.

The Chairperson asked for proposals on the Bill. Mr Tau moved for the adoption of the Bill, with amendments, which was seconded by Mr Jacobs.

Mr Mlenzana noted the objection of COPE, based on the comments he had made.

The majority of the Committee adopted the Bill, as amended.

The Chairperson thanked the officials and Deputy Minister from the Department of Transport for attending the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix 1:

Report of the Select Committee on Public Services on the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill, dated 7 May 2013:
The Select Committee on Public Services, having considered the subject of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill [B 30D-2012] (National Assembly – sec 75), referred to it, reports the Bill with a proposed amendment as follows: 

CLAUSE 4

1.         On page 4, in line 12, to omit "comment" and to substitute "consideration". 

Report to be considered.

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