Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES
Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES

After a number of promises, transport minister Fikile Mbalula has told parliament that the Gauteng e-tolls saga will finally be resolved in two weeks.

Addressing the National Council of Provinces on Thursday, Mbalula said he will make an announcement in two weeks, after the approval of his plan by the cabinet.

“We are engaging with the Treasury and we are at the tail end of our processes... We expect that in the next two weeks we should be back to [the] cabinet,” said Mbalula.

“Before we table our budget vote speech, we should have gone to you and to the public to announce the cabinet decision on the e-tolls.

“It has taken longer than we would have liked. We thought by now we would have finalised but unfortunately it’s a big decision. We are not working alone. We go back and forth with [the] Treasury on these issues,” said Mbalula.

The e-tolls saga has been one of the political hot potatoes Mbalula has had to deal with due to resistance by motorists, citizens, unions and the Gauteng government, as well as the ANC.

He had earlier promised that the e-tolls issue would be resolved in March but his department missed that deadline.

The Treasury has been taking a tough stance on the matter, with finance minister Tito Mboweni repeatedly emphasising the user-pay principle.

The Gauteng government, on the other hand, has been sympathetic with motorists, saying it is unfair to force them to pay e-tolls. Premier David Makhura has often campaigned on the ticket that his government will scrap e-tolls.

The ANC in Gauteng has cited the e-tolls saga as among the many issues that lost it votes in the past local government elections. Most notably the ANC lost the metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane to DA-led coalitions. The party has since won back the Joburg metro, also through a coalition.

Should the tolls be scrapped, it will be a boost for the governing party ahead of the local government elections on October 27.

Even opposition parties in the province are opposed to the enforcement of e-tolls. E-tolls were a flop from the beginning when Gauteng motorists refused to purchase eTags, or pay their bills in protest, and its enforcement has since stalled.

In March public transport and roads infrastructure MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the province had made representations to President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mbalula and Mboweni that they were confident the matter would be resolved.

“We have made a compelling case clearly stating that it is not correct for residents of our province to be burdened with paying for e-tolls,” Mamabolo was quoted as saying.

“We are of the strongest view that the freeway network that is being tolled services the national economy and the Southern African Development Community, as well as the international economy. It is therefore not fair to expect the people of our province to carry the burden.”

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