Presidency: Zuma’s e-toll remarks distorted

The president caused controversy by saying Gauteng residents “can’t think like Africans in Africa”.

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Elmond Jiyane.

JOHANNESBURG - The Presidency on Tuesday said President Jacob Zuma's remarks on Gauteng e-tolls were distorted by the media.

The president on Monday evening said, "We can't think like Africans in Africa generally. We're in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It's not some national road in Malawi."

Zuma made the comments at the Gauteng ANC Manifesto Forum at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj defended the address.

He says what the president means is that Gauteng roads can't be compared to roads in other countries or towns.

"The words have regrettably been taken out of context and blown completely out of proportion."

Maharaj says Zuma means comparisons shouldn't be made as Gauteng is "the heartbeat of South Africa's economy."

"The remarks were made in the broader context of South Africa."

Zuma defended e-tolls, saying Gauteng motorists should bear the brunt of the extra costs necessary to keep the province running.

"The roads are to be tolled to pay back the money we borrowed to build the freeways - to make the economy flow in Johannesburg."

Zuma told delegates that e-tolls are the best possible solution.

"It is not fair to make the whole of South Africa pay for Gauteng's roads by taxing petrol."

At the same time, Zuma said there was still an opportunity to discuss the e-tolling system if there was a need for clarification.

Zuma told delegates that workers who could afford and maintain a vehicle would be able to afford to pay for e-tolls.

The rest of the working class would make use of public transport, he added.

Zuma said the proposal to exempt students from the system would also be examined.

For the Presidency's full statement click here.

To listen to audio on Zuma's address follow this link http://bit.ly/1cS3ytR.