The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) presented a critical perspective on the Gauteng e-toll scheme. OUTA was an non-profit organisation formed in March 2012 as a business initiative, but on account of public and government pressure it became public driven. OUTA did not oppose the need for the public to pay for roads, but was convinced of the failure of the Gauteng e-toll scheme. The scheme was seen to be administratively burdensome and inefficient, and did not consider alternatives to easing congestion. There had been a lack of public engagement. The South African National Road Agency Limited (SANRAL) had not adequately considered the fuel levy. Court judgements allowed SANRAL to toll, but also allowed for a collateral challenge from society. It was claimed that the fuel levy hurt the poor more, and yet there had been a 92% increase over eight years. Although SANRAL had claimed there was nothing untoward about construction costs, the Competition Commission found collusion between construction companies. None of the 46 000 exempt taxis had fitted e-tags, which indicated that the scheme was shunned, even when free. Compliance currently stood at less than 10%. Licence renewal implications to enforce compliance would take public resistance into another area of government. OUTA advocated that the scheme be halted. An exit strategy could be negotiated, as the five-year contract term end was not far off.
In discussion, ANC Members did not contest the stated unworkability of the Gauteng e-toll scheme, but found the suggested solution of halting the scheme and relying on the fuel levy unacceptable. It was felt that the fuel levy impacted worst on the poor, and that e-tolling was a mechanism that could fund infrastructure development. ANC Members were forthright in stating that opposition to the e-toll scheme was driven by the interests of business and of the rich. Exemption for taxis was a means of subsidising the poor. Members argued that OUTA contradicted itself by at first declaring that it was not opposed to e-tolling, and later arguing against it. OUTA was also criticised for not placing its submission within the context of the need to manage private car user behaviour, which by implication showed a lack of concern about using public transport to ease congestion. It was felt that the lack of compliance alluded to could be overcome by a concerted campaign. There was outrage at and concern about number plate cloning and, more significantly, collusion among construction companies. A DA Member stated that the e-toll scheme was a taint on the otherwise excellent reputation of SANRAL. There was concern about the lack of consultation. However, the Member did not commit on the matter of the fuel levy or the necessity of halting the scheme, but instead called for a hearing in which OUTA and SANRAL could both state their concerns amicably. In its response, OUTA gave notice that opposition to the e-toll scheme would continue, on the grounds that an unjust process had been followed, and that the scheme was unlawful. OUTA and others would hold to the conviction that civil disobedience was justified within the context.
The Department of Transport gave a briefing on International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) by Sea. The HNS Convention was adopted by the IMO in 1996, and was amended by a 2010 Protocol. The Convention ensured compensation for damage or loss through maritime transport of hazardous and noxious substances. The Convention consisted of two tiers. Ship owners had to maintain insurance of financial security on board for HNS incidents. Importers of HNS had to pay a levy to the HNS fund calculated per quantity of HNS received per annum. Once the Convention was ratified, the Department of Transport would enact legislation to implement the Convention. The Department requested approval and support for the HNS Convention by Parliament.
Members asked about enforcement of first tier compliance, sanctions for non-compliance and how ongoing payment would be ensured.
The Committee approved the Cape Town Agreement 2012 and the African Maritime Transport Charter were considered and adopted.
Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) was elected as acting Chairperson. He welcomed Members to the first sitting of the year. It was bound to be a hard year, but it was a good Committee. He promptly asked Mr Duvenage to proceed with the OUTA presentation.
Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) on Gauteng e-toll scheme
Mr Wayne Duvenage, OUTA Chairperson, told the Committee that OUTA was an NPO, formed in March 2012 as a business initiative. On account of public and government pressure it later became public driven. OUTA did not oppose the need for the public to pay for the roads, and did not denounce the benefits of ITS/E-Toll technology. Yet it was convinced of the failure of the Gauteng e-toll scheme, due to a combination of issues and poor contextualisation of the environment. Fleet-based industries became aware of the e-toll plan in 2010 and there was engagement with SANRAL into 2011 about challenges. SANRAL missed three launch dates in 2011. There was poor public engagement and signs of unworkability. It became evident that the scheme was administratively burdensome and inefficient, and that there were inadequate alternatives to easing congestion. There was a lack of public engagement. The Minister of Transport informed Parliament in October 2011 that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) project would not resolve congestion challenges, and that benefits might not be forthcoming.
OUTA submitted that public resistance was justified within the context. A user-pays scheme with a high percentage of users not paying, was a serious concern for those paying. SANRAL did not adequately consider the fuel levy option. OUTA interdicted the launch in April 2012, with the High Court granting OUTA an interdict approving a full judicial review before electronic tolling could be put into effect. SANRAL was set free to launch by the Constitutional Court in September 2012 who lifted the interdict. SANRAL undertook to launch within two weeks, but only made the attempt 15 months later. In October 2013 the Supreme Court of Appeal set the High Court judgement aside and allowed SANRAL to toll, but left the door open for a collateral challenge from society.
Mr Duvenage said it was claimed that the fuel levy hurt the poor more, and yet there had been an increase of 92% in fuel levy tariffs over the past eight years. OUTA saw that as hypocrisy. SANRAL had claimed in 2011/12 that there was nothing untoward about construction costs, but the Competition Commission found construction companies guilty of collusion in February 2013. OUTA held that e-tolls amounted to extortion of Gauteng motorists. In addition there was concern over the fact that none of the 46 000 exempt Gauteng taxis had fitted e-tags. It suggested that the scheme was being shunned, even when free.
OUTA concluded that critical factors for e-toll success were lacking in the Gauteng scheme. Strong public support was lacking. SANRAL had spent over R30 million on litigation and R120 million on marketing. Compliance had maxed out at 40% in 2014, and currently stood at less than 10%. To use licence renewal implications to enforce compliance would be an invitation for public resistance into another area of governance. To link vehicle licencing with e-toll enforcement would harm and delegitimise the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act and the vehicle licencing system.
OUTA advocated that the e-toll scheme be halted. It was possible to negotiate an exit strategy for e-toll contracts, seeing that the five-year term end was not far off.
The Chairperson thanked OUTA for the presentation, and commended the passion shown. It was claimed in the first slide that the need for the public to pay for roads was not disagreed with. Yet there was later reference to a quote by the former Minister of Transport to the effect that e-tolling was not addressing what it was supposed to address. The question was whether the quote by the former Minister was used in its total context. The e-toll issue was also related to the need to manage private car behaviour, which was the flipside of the coin. The quote was used to leverage disagreement with e-tolling. The Presidential Commission advocated infrastructure investment in roads. The Commission had not advised that the user-pay principle be discarded.
The Chairperson continued that North America had started a rail infrastructure project in 2003/04, with huge amounts invested. There were commuters who were reluctant to accept subway development, as they wanted private car comfort. The country then embarked on a huge campaign to support the development.
The Chairperson noted with regard to consultation that various forums were cited who were all making the same point. There was slanting towards a particular perspective. The Committee would follow up on collusion between construction companies. Law enforcement had to decide to fight it. Other SANRAL issues would come before the Committee.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) agreed with the contradiction the Chairperson had alluded to. There was a website that discouraged payment, and yet OUTA claimed that it was not opposed to the user-pays principle. OUTA had to supply a time-table alternative. AARTO had not been given an opportunity to submit. It was not in order to mix issues with regard to the fuel levy. The previous government had taxed dogs and bicycles. Africans were not accepting of that. There was concern about business, but not about the poor. The e-toll scheme exempted taxis, which favoured the poor. To object to e-toll taxing was to be concerned about the rich, without allowing for subsidisation of the poor. Tax issues had to be discussed by tax people. The real issue was infrastructure development. e-Tolling had to provide a solution to infrastructure development. Fuel levies collected went to a central revenue fund, from whence it was distributed according to need. A certain percentage went to AARTO. OUTA was being unconstitutional in focusing on a single province. It would be better to help find a solution to infrastructure development. Number plate cloning was criminal and corrupt, and a criminal act had to provide protection. OUTA was at the same time professing to be against tax abuse, and declaring it to be justified. It was a chameleon-like tactic. The NPO would do better to work towards a solution to infrastructure development.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) remarked that SANRAL was probably the best entity in operation. Historically it had been prudent and well managed. It had shown capacity to retain and develop skills. However, it was tainted by e-tolling. He did not wish to negate good work done. But he agreed that there had been minimal consultation about e-tolling. Lack of concern with consultation was evident when amendments to the AARTO Act were submitted on 6 or 7 December when everyone was on holiday. The closing date for submissions was in January. The same tactic had been used in the past. He had officially asked the Minister about Dr Roeloff Botha of SANRAL and his opinions, and the Minister replied that he had to go and ask Dr Botha himself. There was no substantiation. A recent study had shown that it was in fact Mpumalanga motorists who suffered the most from e-tolling. Public transport had been instituted successfully in places like Singapore and Taiwan. Wealthy people used public transport in such countries, and did not buy cars. But public transport had to be quick, safe and clean, which was not the case in South Africa. Public transport had to be safe, efficient and well run. He thanked OUTA for pointing out collusion. He suggested that the matter be placed on the Committee agenda and discussed. Collusion would continue, unless resolved. He wondered what the future would hold. Gauteng would oppose e-Tolls. It would be better if licence fees were paid. He advised that OUTA and SANRAL be invited to appear at the same meeting, so that the concerns of both sides could be expressed and there could be debate through an amicable discussion.
Mr G Radebe (ANC) likewise commented that there were conflicting statements. There was at first agreement with the user-pay principle, and then disagreement. A balance had to be found. He asked what OUTA was advocating. He disagreed that the fuel levy could be used to pay for what the e-tolls were designed to pay for. The fuel levy "could kill the poor for using the roads". There had been reference to hypocrisy about the fuel levy. He found it hypocritical that people had to pay for Mpumalanga roads, who did not use them. He agreed that collusion among construction companies had to be placed on the Committee programme. The abuse of government money had to be followed up. The 46 000 taxis were exempt from e-toll. Taxis were used by black people, who were the poorest. Rejection of the e-tolls meant not enabling the poor to be subsidised. Mr De Freitas had remarked on the need to use public transport, but Mr De Freitas himself drove to Parliament in his car. Mr De Freitas did not ride in parliamentary buses, which were there to reduce congestion. Mr Radebe had observed that white Members of Parliament did not use parliamentary buses.
The Chairperson remarked that he had to defend Mr De Freitas.
Mr Radebe rendered an apology to Mr De Freitas. Government was trying its best. Compliance had to improve. People had to understand that they had to pay for using roads. The President had remarked that South Africa had beautiful roads. Society had the right to raise its concerns, but a proper perspective had to be obtained. There had to be another hearing with different stakeholders participating. South Africans had to be urged to comply. Non-compliance was killing the country.
Mr Sibande said that he would be willing to agree with anyone who could present an alternative. Mpumalanga was paying the highest for e-tolling. Reliance on the fuel levy would be to expect Mpumalanga to fund other provinces. The real issue was infrastructure development, not SANRAL.
Mr Duvenage responded that OUTA had not stated that it was in agreement with e-tolling. The argument was that it was not the right mechanism. Users were already paying for road use through the fuel levy and taxes. It was not an infrastructure issue. The e-toll collection and enforcement process was flawed. The e-toll system was not a boom down mechanism. He could not travel to Durban or Mpumalanga before SANRAL lifted the boom. The e-toll was a drive-through system where money then had to be collected from society. There were severe problems with the e-toll collection and enforcement process. It had started to unravel with number plate cloning. OUTA did not condone that, but number plate cloning would continue if people could get away with it. It caused problems for metros. The e-toll system exacerbated problems. OUTA did not want that kind of anarchy.
He agreed with the Chairperson that there had been inputs from society after 2007, and he himself had given inputs at forums. Still and yet input from society was lost when it was most sorely needed, in 2007. SANRAL had placed one advertisement in six newspapers. Those were not unambiguous. Only 30 responses were received at the time, from three and a half million motorists. People had to be brought in at the beginning. There had been suggestions that R20 billion could be spent on the improvement of public transport, and not on e-tolling. Widening a freeway by one lane only solved congestion problems temporarily.
Mr Duvenage said the alternative that OUTA was advocating was to cancel the e-toll scheme. There was only 9% compliance. The 9% who paid could justifiably feel anger at the 91% who did not. With regard to compliance, COSATU, the faith based movement, the Black Management Forum and the Chamber of Commerce were all agreed on the unworkability of e-tolling. If SANRAL were to bring a summons against individuals who did not pay, there would be a collateral challenge, which would hold that it was right for civil society to disobey an unjust process, and an unlawful scheme.
Mr Duvenage noted that the alternative was to rely on the fuel levy. Members had held that the fuel levy would force people to pay for roads in other provinces. Yet untolled roads were paid for through taxes. He himself did not use the road between Durban and Mpumalanga, but still paid for it through taxes. The long-distance model had to be separated from the e-toll model. The fuel levy had to pay for Gauteng roads as public infrastructure. The fuel levy was a justified user-pays mechanism.
Mr Duvenage replied that OUTA was not unconcerned about the value of exemption for taxis. But the 46 000 taxis were not using it. To continue with tolling would increasingly create a situation that could be likened to a disco where there was lights and music, but no-one on the dance floor. R70 million per year went into the e-toll process, which "did not go into the tarmac". Regulations to force e-tolling into the AARTO space had to be avoided. Licence defiance could become a big problem.
The Chairperson told Mr Duvenage that although agreement had been expressed with the principle that people had to pay for road use, the OUTA response was saying something different. The argument that there had to be sole reliance on the fuel levy, was not acceptable. OUTA had submitted that there was a lack of consultation in 2007. But if the lack of consultation was later corrected, that fact no longer counted. Parliament would decide on the e-toll issue.
Committee Reports on the Cape Town Agreement and the African Maritime Transport Charter
The Committee Secretary read out the Committee Report on the protocol for the safety of fishing vessels, known as the Cape Town Agreement. The Committee had recommended that the House support the agreement.
The Committee approved the report.
The Committee Secretary read out the Committee Report on the African Maritime Transport Charter. The Committee had recommended that the House approve the Charter.
The Committee approved the report.
Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea Convention: briefing by the Department of Transport (DoT)
Adv Nosipho Sobekwa, DoT Chief Director: Maritime Transport Regulation, noted that the HNS Convention was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1996, and subsequently amended by the 2010 Protocol. Its aim was to ensure compensation for damage and losses caused by maritime transport of hazardous and noxious substances (HNS). HNS included gas, acid, industrial alcohol, oil, active carbon and activated charcoal. The HNS Convention established a two tier regime. Ship owners were required to maintain insurance of financial security on board for HNS incidents. The second tier required that importers of HNS pay a levy to the HNS Fund calculated per quantity of HNS received per annum. The HNS Convention had to ensure that the South African marine environment was protected against damage caused by oil and gas transported at sea from offshore platforms and oil rigs. Importers of gasses from offshore rigs had to have insurance on board, and receiving companies had to contribute to the HNS fund. Once the Convention was ratified, the Department would enact legislation in the form of the HNS Act to implement the Convention.
Mr C Hunsinger (DA) asked for clarity about who would ensure controls. The Department had mentioned South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA). There were different categories of insurance. He asked about implications and sanctions for those who did not have the right papers. He referred to slide 9, on the role of the Treasury with regard to collection of fees. He asked how it would be ensured that there was ongoing payment.
Adv Sobekwa replied that SAMSA would check whether the right insurance documents were carried. The International Maritime Association would provide training about compliance with international standards. Ongoing payment would be ensured by payment going straight into the Fund. The Department of Transport had to ensure that the country paid as a member state.
Mr Dumisani Ntuli, DoT Director: Maritime Transport, added that the key instrument to monitor compliance was to ensure that ships carried the insurance certificate. Inspectors had to make sure of that. With regard to sanctions, each member state had to take action under its own law.
The Chairperson asked that further detail about the protocol be supplied. The protocol would be adopted the following week.
Introduction of Committee Content adviser
The Committee Secretary announced that Ms Elma Nel had been appointed as the new Content adviser. Ms Nel provided a resume of her career to date. She had worked as Committee Secretary in the Communications Portfolio Committee, in the Gauteng MEC office of Roads and Transport, and as a senior researcher at the Cape Town High Court. She had obtained an LLB and a Masters degree in import and export law, and was admitted as an advocate.
Adoption of minutes
Minutes of 13, 15, 16, 20, and 27 October 2016 were read through and adopted.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
- International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea
- OUTA: The Gauteng E-Toll issue: a critical (realistic?) perspective
- Committee Report on Transport on the African Maritime Transport Charter
- Committee Report on Transport on Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on Implementation of provisions of Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to International Convention for Safety of Fishing Vessels
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