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The madness comes to a head

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The Gauteng tolling issue finally seems to be coming to a head, and where will the madness go then?

Last month, the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), together with the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) and  the Department of Transport, sent out a vicious message to the citizens of GP telling them to register for e-tags or face losing their licences.

For the sake of clarity, they went on to say that non-payment of toll fees would result in vehicle and driver licence renewals being blocked until the outstanding fees are paid – much the same as outstanding traffic fines.

But the thing that gets me most is the way in which this latest announcement was made. The press conference reminded me of a pre-fight world heavyweight boxing match. The arrogance and attitude.

Public participation? Is their definition of participation restricted to attending a meeting? Rubbish! Clearly public demonstrations and strike action count for nothing.

Timing is everything
I suppose we should be thanking the Minister of Finance for increasing the fuel levy by 28 cents. Even though he announced that tolling would continue, I would nominate him as the champion of the cause. Through his efforts (if you had to put a face to it), public opposition and deliberate obstruction will grow.

Here’s why …
* The build-up Thanks to the electricity price increase, household expenditure has been going up

* March We probably learnt at the end of March that, because of current international oil prices, we must endure a further fuel price increase (increased fuel levy included) of around 55 to 60 cents per litre for petrol and about 40 to 46 cents for diesel; petrol up to more than R11,70 a litre – just in time for the Easter holidays …

* April The tolls are due to kick in at the end of April; and

* May Food prices will be higher from May thanks to the March fuel price hike.

And the best is still to come
Because what this means is that commodity prices are going to fly. Commuter fares will go up. Disposable income will be down. We will be in trouble. When an economy is in trouble, the Reserve Bank gets involved. Gill Marcus could get involved. The Governor of our Reserve Bank could up the repo rate.

They want the GP tolls to come online at the end April – knowing that the domino effect will rush us ever closer to an increase in the repo rate? Delicious coincidence. As I said, timing is everything.

I believe the ANC government is going to lose a lot of ground in the next election, in Gauteng at least, simply because of their ability to turn down the hearing aid when they should be listening.

But more worrying than a particular political party losing its seat of power is this: when public demonstrations and strike action count for nothing – what will?

 


SKID MARKS is a regular column in which Gary Ronald presents his personal and sometimes jaundiced view on transport, safety and mobility. Ronald has a wealth of experience in these fields has presented numerous papers both locally and internationally. He’s been with the AA since 2000 and is currently its head of public affairs. All comments published here reflect his own opinion, and not that of the AA. FOCUS appreciates his witty, topical and sometimes irreverent stance on the industry. If you’d like to respond to whatever punches he throws, visit www.focusontransport.co.za.

 

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