As the controversy over the e-tolls in Gauteng intensifies, transport minister Fikile Mbalula has told MPs that national roads agency Sanral is due to spend R25bn this year to expand the national roads network.
Mbalula made the announcement in parliament during a debate on his department’s R64bn budget for the 2019/20 financial year.
Mbalula said R13bn had been exclusive set aside by Sanral for road maintenance across the country, with “large projects” in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.
“These include the N3 between Umsunduzi and eThekwini in Durban, the N2 Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape and Moloto road in Limpopo, together with social infrastructure in the Eastern Cape, KZN, Mpumalanga and North West
“Our target through these projects is to create 20,000 full-time jobs over the next three to five years,” said Mbalula.
But when it came to addressing the issue of e-tolls Mbalula was thin on detail, only telling MPs that he, Gauteng premier David Makhura and finance minister Tito Mboweni were “seized with the process to find a lasting solution to the demand to scrap e-tolls in Gauteng” as part of task team instituted by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Makhura and Mboweni were embroiled in a social media spat this past weekend over the scrapping of e-tolls, leading to Ramaphosa publicly calling them to order.
Makhura and the Gauteng ANC want national government to scrap e-tolls, but Mboweni argues otherwise, saying government had the obligation to collect toll fees from motorists in order to service the R67bn debt it incurred during the rollout of the Gauteng Freeways Improvement Project.
“We’re mindful of the demand to scrap e-tolls and are therefore looking at solutions that will balance this demand with the need for the country to honour its obligation in so far as the e-toll debt is concerned. This is the reality,” said Mbalula.
Turning to the troubled commuter rail agency Prasa, Mbalula said he had set up a ‘war room’ to deal with its problems. He said these ranged from vandalism, poor rail signalling, late train arrivals and safety issues.
Mbalula said the war room would also address the loss of engineering skills at Prasa, which she said had compromised it rail stock management.
Mbalula said he would also stop the practice of rotating the same people from one board to the next within entities of his department.