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Wednesday, Oct 16th

Zuma on e-tolls: ‘We can’t think like Africans in Africa’

etollsgauteng

South African president Jacob Zuma has said that Gauteng motorists must not ‘think like Africans in Africa’ regarding the province’s controversial electronic toll road (e-tolls) project.

Zuma signed into law the ‘Transport and Related Matters Amendment Bill’ or e-toll bill on 21 September, which means that motorists using Gauteng highways between cities such as Johannesburg and Pretoria could be paying e-tolls by year-end.

Ahead of the 2010 football world cup, the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) took out a R20 billion loan to finance the ‘Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project’.

And to pay back the debt, Sanral has adopted the e-toll system to charge road users for driving along the province’s highways.

But lobbyists such as the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) have fought to keep the project from going ahead.

However, speaking at the at Wits University in Johannesburg last night, Zuma urged Gauteng motorists to think more like citizens in other cities around the world that have implemented similar e-toll projects, such as London and Dubai.

“The principle of user pay has to be applied to complement the money government spent (to build the roads). This is what all economies in the world do,” Zuma has been quoted in South Africa’s City Press newspaper.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s Eyewitness News (EWN) has quoted Zuma as also saying: “We can’t think like Africans because we are in Johannesburg and not some national road in Malawi.”

UPDATE: South African presidency alleges media distortion

The South African presidency, though, has issued a public statement saying that Zuma's words were "taken out of context and blown completely out of proportion."

The presidency has said that, in particular, Zuma said: “With regards to road construction, Gauteng has built many kilometres of new 8-10 lane freeways built at a cost of about R20 billion. This is more than our national roads budget for one year. The roads are to be tolled to pay back the money we borrowed to build the freeways. Our policy is that users should pay for extra government expenses.”

The presidency then goes on to defend Zuma's Africa comments by saying Zuma then made an example that it was "not fair to expect Gauteng roads to be compared to roads in other towns" such as “Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, Polokwane or any other town or national road in Malawi as this was Gauteng, the heartbeat of South Africa’s economy and an international city of commerce and business”.

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