Toll roads: it’s not the price, it’s the principle
Back in the 1970s all roads in South Africa were paid for by car licence fees and a fuel tax.
That is the “user pays” principle. The more you use the roads, the more petrol you use, and the more you pay. It’s simple.
And the collection is simple too — back then there was no VAT or sales tax, which are more complicated systems. But the fuel tax was much simpler than either of those systems.
Then the National Party government decided to raid the road fund to pay for its invasion of Angola and its destabilisation of Mocambique. And to compensate for that they decided to convert some existing roads into toll roads. So we had to pay twice. We had already paid for the roads through the fuel tax, and now we had to pay tolls as well.
Now we have an ANC government, which talks about “transformation”, but their idea of “transformation” is to continue to old NP policies, and even to extend them.
And that reminds me of this:
And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?
And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.
But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?
And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.
And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.
And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him;
And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents (1 Kings 12:6-16).
The old men, people like Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo and Chris Hani, are cold in their graves.
But the young men are the tenderpreneurs.
The NP chastised us with whips, and now the ANC, on the advice of young men who knew not
Moses Tambo, has decided that their little finger will be thicker than the NP’s loins.
The problem is not just the eTolls on the Gauteng freeway system (a system they want to extend throughout the country), but all the toll roads everywhere. They should all be abolished, and we should revert to the “user pays” system, where roads are funded out of the fuel tax.
It’s actually easy — next time the fuel price drops, as it recently did by 70c a litre, the government just needs to drop it by 50c a litre instead, and use the balance for the road fund. No one would notice, no one would complain. They’d be so glad of a 50c drop that they would not be agitated over the remaining 20c.
The problem with the Gauteng eTolls, of course, is that most of the money we will be paying is for the collection system, and for the tenderpreneurs’, bribes and kickbacks that went to setting it up. And it is that that is causing the government to dig in its heels.
So don’t buy eTags, not now, not ever.
And voice your objections to MphahleT@dot.gov.za fax 0123093134 (if there’s a better address than that, please let me know). So even if the consultations are “a mere formality” (‘E-toll consultations a mere formality’ | ITWeb), have your say anyway.