The morning session of the Gauteng e-tolls review panel on Wednesday experienced a few tense moments as an economist for Sanral took issue with objections to e-tolling.
Research consultant Rudolf Botha was presenting a study he undertook for roads agency Sanral, which included the finding that the richest 20% of households in the province paid 94% of toll fees for passenger cars.
Lower income brackets mainly used public transport.
“Public transport is exempted. [Users of this type of transport] should shut up and not take part in this debate,” Botha said in a somewhat heated tone.
Panellist John Ngcebetsha objected, saying it was unnecessary “to take that tone”.
Sanral CEO Nazir Alli leapt to Botha’s defence before Botha could continue with his presentation.
Alli said the “opinions expressed by a presenter are no different from opinions expressed by detractors”, but it appeared that e-tolling the detractors “seem to get a lot more space” to express their opinions.
The panel was appointed by Gauteng premier David Makhura to examine the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) and the electronic tolling system put in place to fund it.
The panel was expected to present its findings to Makhura at the end of the month.
Once Botha finished his presentation and question time began, Ngcebetsha said he had interjected as “a matter of principle” because participation in discourse around the GFIP should not be limited.
Botha defended his stance, saying: “There shouldn’t be debate on the issue, e-tolls are a damn good idea.” — Sapa