Justice Project South Africa reacts to instruction by Transport Minister to halt work on toll roads

Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has reacted with utter dismay and horror at the announcement that Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has instructed SANRAL to halt all work on Toll Roads. To use your words, Mister Minister, we are “shocked” at your lack of foresight!

In a statement released by the Department of Transport on Sunday 23 October, it was stated that “The Minister of Transport Mr Sibusiso Ndebele has instructed the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) to halt all road projects processes related to the tolling of national roads.” The release goes on to say “He says while the first phase of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan has delivered good road infrastructure, it was an expensive exercise that has drawn sharp views from the public.”

Nonsense! The first phase of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Plan has NOT been completed yet, unless the first phase only included the N1 and R21 freeways! The N12/N3 freeways in Johannesburg are in such a shocking, demolished state of dilapidation that they constantly cause crashes and daily gridlock traffic and calling a halt to their reinstatement as usable freeways is little short of insanity on the part of the Minister.

There is a VAST difference between calling a halt to planned tolling and calling a halt to the construction of roads which have been demolished by SANRAL and its contractors and the state of the Johannesburg roads currently under construction can only be described as treacherous.

One of the most prevalent factors in road fatalities is poor engineering and if the Minister thinks that he can punish motorists for being angry with his and SANRAL’s intent to profit from tolling freeways, then he is not only childish, but is displaying the traits of a dictator.

The answer to implementing and maintaining roads infrastructure in South Africa lies in coming up with workable solutions that benefit the public and from spending monies collected from existing taxation and possibly even reasonable tolling on roads infrastructure – not looking to make SANRAL and foreign companies stinking rich. Don’t try and make the public think that you are sympathetic to their plight of lack of affordability Mr Minister when it was you who previously said “if you don’t like it, catch a taxi.” Do you really think that we all have such short memories as to forget you said that?

There is nothing wrong with saying “Minister Ndebele says all these processes, including a consultative processes initiated by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, should be allowed to reach their logical conclusions to ensure that all parties concerned and their respective views are brought on board” but blackmailing motorists by leaving current road construction projects unfinished is completely unacceptable.

This announcement and instruction should be immediately retracted and/or clarified, the currently dilapidated roads finished; or at least reinstated to a condition that can be defined as freeways and some semblance of order restored to our roads. The matter of tolls can be properly discussed and resolved when these roads are sorted out. Failing this, Minister Ndebele and SANRAL are lining themselves up for litigation and possibly even criminal charges for destroying what roads were in place.

On a final note, JPSA again notes that important announcements are being made by the Department of Transport on a Sunday when few journalists are on duty. We have to question why this tactic is being adopted more and more often by the Department of Transport.

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