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Archive for the tag “Gauteng”

Toll roads "compromise" – the worst of all possible worlds

Faced with calls from various groups, including Cosatu, representing trade unions, and Naamsa (the association of automobile manufacturers, which employs members of trade unions) and the Automobile Association to scrap toll roads in favour of a fuel levy to finance roads, the government has decided to adopt the worst features of both systems — to continue tolls, but to subidise them by means of an increased fuel levy.

That is the kind of compromise that gives “compromise” a bad name.

It also represents very muddled thinking on the part of the government, as the following shows: Lobby groups call for fuel levy as alternative to road tolling:

The government is seeking a balance between funding road infrastructure from a combination of direct payments from the National Treasury and funds generated from methods that rely on the user-pays method such as tolling, Department of Transport director-general George Mahlalela says.

How to get the best blend of these two opposing principles would be central to the outcomes of the road funding summit that is due to take place within the next two months, Mahlalela said in an interview this week.

The “opposed principles” are not like that at all. A fuel levy is the best, fairest and most easily implemented version of the “user pays” principle. “Toll roads” are an unfair, cumbersome and difficult way of implementing the principle.

If the Department of Transport cannot understand this, then it is really being run by incompetent people and needs to be overhauled.

Don’t let anyone fool you by saying that the e-tolling system is an implementatio0n of the principle of user pays. That’s just a propaganda smokescreen.

  • User Pays = Fuel Levy
  • Some Users Pay = Toll Roads

Until the 1970s South Africa’s road construction and maintenance was financed by a fuel levy. Then the National Party government of the time decided to appropriate the road fund to finance its military adventures in countries like Angola, and its surrogate operations by groups like Renamo in Mocambiue — and for that readon toll roads were introduced, to cover the deficit in the road fund.

Do we will need to destabilise Angola and Mocambique?

If not, there is no excuse for toll roads at all, and let’s go back to a road fund paid for by fuel levies.

And here are some of the people who have been calling for this:

Use fuel levy for tolls – AA

The Gauteng toll fees should be absorbed by the increase in the fuel levy, the Automobile Association said on Wednesday.

“We are convinced that despite the latest offering from government the cost to the consumer, as far as the Gauteng tolls are concerned, is going to hit home hard when commodity prices increase as well as transport costs,” said spokesperson Gary Ronald in a statement.

And from the trade unions E-tolling is ‘commodification of public services’ | ITWeb:

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will march against the contentious e-tolling system on 7 March.

The union body adds that, during the State of the Nation address, it hopes to hear president Jacob Zuma announce that government is going to completely scrap the Gauteng e-tolling system and quash rumours that it is going to do no more than reduce the price of the tolls.

People like Julius Malema have calld for nationaluisation of wasting assets like the mines, but what they should be calling for is nationalisation of growing assets, like the transport infrastructure.

As Cosatu goes on to say E-tolling is ‘commodification of public services’ | ITWeb:

Cosatu says it will go ahead with its march. “We are utterly opposed to the commodification of more and more public services and believe that our roads are a public asset, not a commodity to create massive profits for private companies.
Click here

“E-tolling is a system of capitalism and will benefit only those that are financially healthy and not the poor.”

Vote with your wheels

Someone has suggested a protest against the new Gauteng freeway tolling system — a #votewithyourwheels campaign. Tweet and retweet #votewithyourwheels

Here’s what to do:

  • On the day tolling starts, every taxi, bus, truck and car should make for an onramp to one of the tolled freeways and stop. Block it. Have a taxi strike, bus strike, whatever.
  • In the coming municipal elections, find where candidates stand on the tolled freeways, and don’t vote for any candidate or party that supports tolling. Vote for those who oppose it.

Back in the bad old days the National Party government stole money from the Road Fund (paid for by a fuel levy) to finance its wars and destablisation in Angola, Mocambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They then introduced toll roads to cover the deficit — on some of the roads.

What’s the ANC’s excuse?

The fairest way of paying for roads is a fuel levy — the more you use the roads, the more fuel you use, and the more you pay. The new Gauteng toll system places an unneccessarily heavy burden on those who have to travel to work, whether they travel by car, bus or taxi.

Vote with your wheels – tweet and retweet #votewithyourwheels

Don’t take it lying down. At the other end of the continent, the people of Egypt are not letting the fat cats get away with it. Why should we let them get away with it here?

FF Plus – Tollgate Petition

I never imagined that the day would come when I would sympathise with any cause promoted by the far-rightwing Freedom Front Plus Party, but I do sympathise with their campaign against the new toll roads: FF Plus – Tollgate Petition.

Toll roads were introduced to South Africa by the National Party (remember them?). Roads were paid for by the Road Fund, and were funded mainly by a tax levied on fuel. The National Party nicked this money, because they wanted to use it to fund their attempts to destabilise Angola, Mocambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other countries.

I wonder what the ANC’s excuse is?

They have simply continued with the old NP policy, with no “transformation” in sight.

The NP then privatised the busiest roads and allowed private companies to make profits from the tolls. At the same time they deregulated transport, which resulted in more and heavier vehicles using the existing roads (often to avoid the toll roads). And that too has continued. Check, for example, the road from Bapsfontein to Standerton. It is the quickest and least congested route from Pretoria to KZN, and it is in bad condition because of the number of heavy vehicles usuing it to avoid to tolled sections. With even more tolled sections it can only get worse.

I wonder what the ANC’s excuse it?

There’s certainly been no transformation there, just a continuation of the old NP policies.

The fairest and most cost-effective way of paying for roads is a fuel levy. This also uses the “user-pays” principle — the more you use the roads, the more fuel you use, and the more you pay.

But if they insist on charging 66c per kilometre, I suggest that those who have the special number plates that can be read by the toll gantries should be given a discount of R6.60 per litre on fuel. That would compensate for the cost of travelling between the toll gantries, which are about 10 km apart.

As for us, well, it will cost us about R300.00 more to go to church on a Sunday.

I’ll certainly support the FF Plus petition.

I don’t know if I’ll vote for them, though.

But I might volunteer to distribute petition forms and leaflets at taxi ranks.

Building bridges for the Gautrain

Just about every road in Gauteng is being dug up, widened or resurfaced, and if that weren’t enough, a new railway line is being built between Johannesburg, Pretoria and the airport. One of the most spectacular pieces of construction is where it will cross the N1 highway at Centurion.


When the first railways were built in this part of the world about 120 years ago, President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic (ZAR) did not like Johannesburg, and so would not allow a direct rail link between Johannesburg and Pretoria, but only an indirect connection via Germiston. Now at last this is being rectified, but in the intervening 120 years most of the land in between has been built on, so the new line will be underground from central Johannesburg to Risebank, then on the surface through Midrand, and overhead through Centurion.

There is talk of it possibly being ready in time for the Soccer World Cup next year, though that will also push the cost up.

At the point where it crosses the freeway here, the freeway is also being widened from three lanes to four, though it seems unlikely that that will relieve the traffic congestion. But the road is also likely to become a toll road, and the toll will be about the same as the train fare, which will mean that only vehicles with two or more occupants will be cheaper than the train.

An integrated transport system for Gauteng

An integrated transport system for Gauteng came one step closer with the establishment of the Gauteng Transport Management Authority, and the announcement of a single ticketing system being developed for public transport in Gauteng.

city of johannesburg – One ticket system plan for Gauteng:

A SINGLE ticket system is being rolled out that will make using public transport across Gauteng a whole lot easier.

The system, similar to London’s Oyster Card – a form of electronic ticketing used on public transport services within the Greater London area – is being rolled out by the Gauteng Transport Management Authority (GTMA), a new transport management body.

‘The single ticketing system will see travellers being transported seamlessly and with much ease around the province,’ said Eezi Raboroko, the chief director of transportation management in the province, at the GTMA launch, on Thursday, 9 October.

This is something that has been long overdue, and I wonder about the timing of the announcement — just after the removal of Mbhazima Shilowa as Premier of Gauteng. It has been very much Shilowa’s baby, and he is one of those who pushed hardest for it.

Time to rename Gauteng?

Yesterday I listened to the news on the car radio, and they were talking about xenophobic violence “that started in Gauteng last weekend in Alexandra” and went on to say that it had since spread to other places.

Gauteng used to be the North Sotho name for Johannesburg, and was given to the rather awkwardly-named PWV province. The trouble is that for many, including the Joburg-based media, “Gauteng” still means Johannesburg and perhaps the Witwatersrand, but not outlying areas like Pretoria and Vereeniging. I once heard one radio announcer refer several times to “The Gauteng phone code 011”.

While Joburg-based journalists write about xenophobia, they seem to suffer from xenoamnesia, and to forget that Tshwane is also a part of Gauteng, and that xenophobic violence occurred here several weeks before it appeared in Alex. But for the chattering classes it was in a foreign country until it appeared south of the Jukskei. Only then did it reach Gauteng.

Perhaps we need another name for Gauteng, one that is not so closely linked with Johannesburg.

Time to rename Gauteng?

Yesterday I listened to the news on the car radio, and they were talking about xenophobic violence “that started in Gauteng last weekend in Alexandra” and went on to say that it had since spread to other places.

Gauteng used to be the North Sotho name for Johannesburg, and was given to the rather awkwardly-named PWV province. The trouble is that for many, including the Joburg-based media, “Gauteng” still means Johannesburg and perhaps the Witwatersrand, but not outlying areas like Pretoria and Vereeniging. I once heard one radio announcer refer several times to “The Gauteng phone code 011”.

While Joburg-based journalists write about xenophobia, they seem to suffer from xenoamnesia, and to forget that Tshwane is also a part of Gauteng, and that xenophobic violence occurred here several weeks before it appeared in Alex. But for the chattering classes it was in a foreign country until it appeared south of the Jukskei. Only then did it reach Gauteng.

Perhaps we need another name for Gauteng, one that is not so closely linked with Johannesburg.

Urban legend: government to replace Christian public holidays

Yesterday a friend sent me an e-mail petition against an alleged government plan to change Christian holidays in South Africa.

This is what it said:

ATTENTION ALL CHRISTIANS! It was announced in this mornings Beeld that Government wants to change all Christian holidays e.g. Christmas and Easter, as Christianity has too many public holidays and it is therefore discrimination against other religions.

They no longer want Christian names for these holidays. So if you are prepared to stand up for your faith, please sign the form to say that you are against this proposal.

We WILL stand up for our Lord!

As this had all the marks of an urban legend, I thought I’d check up a bit.

What actually happened was that Mathole Motshekga appealed to the Commission on Culture, Religion and Language to make some changes. He did this back in April, and it was reported in Beeld back then. It wasn’t in today’s Beeld, nor in the issue on the date of the forwarded e-mail message I received.

So the petition is based on a lie: it is not something that “the government” wants. It is something that Mathole Motshekga wants.

So who is Mathole Motshekga?

He is a lawyer and a politician.

He replaced Tokyo Sexwale as Premier of Gauteng, but didn’t last very long in that post, and his tenure was somewhat controversial. He is now director of the Kara Heritage Institute, which appears to promote a new religion of Dr Motshekga’s own devising, a rather eclectic religion based on a mixture of gnosticism and African traditional religion.

I heard him a few times on the morning talk show on SAFM radio, hosted by Xolani (or Cwelani, I’ve heard it pronounced both ways) Gwala giving his views on that subject and others.

To judge from what he said on the radio Dr Motshekga’s knowledge of history seemed to be even more wildly inaccurate than that of The de Vinci code. Xolani/Cwelani Gwala appeared to be a fan of his, and Dr Motshekga was on SAFM nearly every day, so that his religion was getting more exposure on the SABC than any other. Eventually I switched to Classic FM, and no longer listen to SAFM.

I have no objection to Dr Motshekga having his own religion, or even speaking about it on the radio. What annoyed me was the lies and distortions about other religions that he was propagating, and the fact that he seemed to be being given a monopoly to do it by the SABC.

But that is no excuse for some Christians to spread lies and distortions about Dr Motshekga’s views on public holidays, or to spread urban legends that have no foundation.

A good comment on this is Christian holidays and press responsibility by Amelia Mulder, in which she concludes that:

  1. people no longer pay attention when they are reading
  2. they believe what they want to believe
  3. especially when it has to do with the government’s conspiracy against Afrikaners
  4. the press exploits this shamelessly
  5. it makes a person wonder how much you can believe of what you read

Concerning the last couple of points there was another example recently in reports of the arrest of the editor of the Sunday Times, which several journalist bloggers anticipated by writing headlines that implied that the arrest had already taken place, and then later used the rather feeble excuse that it would have happened if they hadn’t said it had happened. So if you want to prevent something happening, say it has already happened, even when it has not — a rather swivel-eyed concept of responsible journalism and media freedom!

Johannesburg trolley buses

This morning I had a phone call from SABC Radio 2000. They are doing a series of broadcasts on transport, and tomorrow they are doing trolley buses, and somehow they found my trolley bus web page, so they want to interview me tomorrow.

Well, that’s rather nice. I’m happy to talk about trolley buses, though they haven’t been seen in South Africa for the last 25 years or so. They are still going strong in other parts of the world, and the fleet in Athens was entirely renewed for the 2004 Olympic Games.

The Johannesburg trolley buses shown in the picture are not nearly as fancy and modern as the new Athens ones. The one on the left is a BUT Series II, which joined the fleet about 1956-1958, and the one on the right is an Alfa Romeo-Ansaldo, which came about 1959. At the time the Ansaldos were among the biggest city passenger buses in the world, with a capacity of about 112 passengers.

Our provincial premier, Mbhazima Shilowa, likes to talk about an integrated and holistic transport plan for Gauteng, and initiated the Gautrain rapid rail project. But that on its own will do little to reduce the traffic congestion on the roads. The train needs to have other forms of transport feeding it, and I wish that trolley buses formed part of that plan.

It would be good to see a network of trolley bus routes spreading out from each station on the Gautrain routes, getting people from the trains to work or home, and meeting with minibus taxis further out. The thing to bear in mind is the road space occupied by a double-decker trolley bus and a minibus taxi, to reduce the congestion around the stations.

And even more important would be to do a transport survey of Gauteng, to find where people live, and where they work, and how they travel between those places at present. Only then can a truly integrated transport plan begin to take shape.

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