At the moment e-tolls is the issue that is uniting some very divergent interests in South Africa. In one way or another the opoosition to urban tolling has receieved support from Cosatu, the Congress of SA Students; the SA Students Congress; the SA National Civic Organisation; the United Association of Taxis Forum; the Treatment Action Campaign; the National Association of National School Governing Bodies; the National Taxi Forum; and Bikers Against E-tolls. I am sure that I recall a news story about Afriforum being opposed to it and in the Western Cape the DA is not impressed either. The SA Council of Churches and the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) are now also lending their active support and Cosatu Gauteng secretary Dumisani Dakile told reporters "...even if Jesus Christ was alive today, he would be leading this protest [against e-tolls]". Read the whole Times Live story here.
Now I understand that people do not want to pay for something that used to be free, but the opposition are not really making their arguments against e-tolls very clear. Are they worried about the impact on consumers' budgets and consequently their spending and the economy at large? Are they worried about an inflationary effect and the economy at large? Has any of these groups tried to quantify this.
In an article in the Daily Maverick the DA's Ian Ollis argues that the need for e-tolling stems from decades of poor maintenance, inadequate investment and inefficienct and ineffective use of available funds. The only way out of this mess is
A dedicated, road maintenance fund – sourced primarily from the fuel levy – would ensure regular supply of funds to address the road maintenance backlog and eliminate the need for excessive tolls to fund road maintenance.What I don't inderstand is how this will be different in terms of impact on consumers and pressure on inflation. The key difference is that instead of Gauteng road users paying for the benefits that they receive from nice new highways, everyone will pay. In addition, with e-tolls, it is car owners who pay the tolls and they have some ability to pay. If everyone who uses fuel has to contribute through an increased fuel levy it is inefficient and unfair - let's use the word: regressive. The country's poor should unite in favour of e-tolls paid by the car owners of Gauteng!