Since talks of the electronic tolling system in Gauteng started, there has been a public uproar as to the reasoning behind this expensive system. The controversial e-tolling system is made up of 49 tolls which are spread along the major roads in Gauteng. When a vehicle drives past anyone of these points, its registration number is identified by an electronic scan and the driver is charged per kilometer they drive between points. The government says that the e-toll system will be instrumental in raising the R 20 billion that is required to upgrade South African highways.
The e-tolls are a bitter pill that many people in Gauteng refuse to swallow. Recent media reports will not make the e-toll system any more attractive to people than it is now. When Democratic Alliance MP Ian Ollis raised a question about how much would be spent on promoting the e-tolling system this year, the Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters responded: “The South African National Roads Agency Ltd has a budgeted amount of R 85 million.”
For an initiative that is meant to raise funds, spending R 85 million a year on advertising does not seem like a reasonable idea. Its worrisome to opposition parties that SANRAL has already spent R 208.4 million but the public is still not sold on the idea. Also, there has been a sharp increase in the amount spent on advertising each year. In the first year, SANRAL spent R 6.4 million. In the second year, SANRAL became more vigorous in its advertising and spent R 30.4 million. The following year, SANRAL thought it was necessary to step things up a notch and spend R 84.5 million. The period of 2012/13 saw SANRAL break its e-tolling advertising budget record by spending R 87.1 on campaigns and advertising.
The Democratic Alliance has called the e-tolling system and its accompanying advertising campaigns a “disgrace”. Ian Ollis said that it was especially disappointing that despite all these considerations, SANRAL is still pressing on with e-tolls. The DA fails to see how the e-tolls are going to have a positive impact on the residents of Gauteng. If anything, the DA is certain that this system will affect the poor as it will increase business expenses and food prices. Ollis added that the e-tolling system undermines “economic growth and job creation”.
Either way, the residents of Gauteng should brace themselves for another year of SANRAL e-tolling print, radio and television adverts as well as other interactive campaigns and promotions; all to the value of R 85 million.