Halted E-tolls put red light on SA building plans

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For months, debate has surrounded South African plans to toll Johannesburg drivers in an aid to find other channels to pay for road improvements. After a lengthy legal battle, these plans have now been put on hold indefinitely.

Now, SANRAL, the state road agency, may have to default on R20-billion of debt. The Finance Ministry has said that it would pay R5.75-billion of the debt, if road users would pay the rest. With the proposed toll system on hold, the government has new concerns of picking up the bill and how they will finance other major public works projects.

The toll system would work electronically, with users registering for a sensor which they would place in their car and then they would be billed each time they pass a toll checkpoint. When the plans for the system were released, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) faced opposition from almost every corner of society who claimed the tolls would be too expensive and put too much of a burden on the poor who it would hit the hardest.

One of the most outspoken against the tolls was labour federation, COSATU. Despite their governing alliance with the ANC, COSATU has stated that they would make the plan impossible to implement through protests and boycotts.

The public outcry over the toll system and the bill the government could be facing indicates a flawed system. This could lead to, as Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered says, “overall nervousness about South Africa” among investors.

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