E-toll panel dismisses 'PR exercise' claims

Panel chairperson Muxe Nkondo says there is no reason to doubt the seriousness of the panel's work.

FILE: Gauteng advisory e-toll panel chairman Muxe Nkondo speaks at hearings in Midrand, Wednesday, 27 August 2014. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng e-toll assessment panel has dismissed claims that it's merely undergoing a "PR exercise" following a statement by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters that the e-tolling system is non-negotiable.

The minister said national government will not change its stance on e-tolls even if the panel finds that the system should be scrapped.

This has raised concerns during a public consultation process in Soweto last night with people claiming the panel set up by Gauteng Premier David Makhura is a waste of time.

Panel chairperson Muxe Nkondo says there is no reason to doubt the seriousness of their work.

"I have no doubt that it will lead to serious considerations on how to proceed."

But questions have been raised about whether Makhura will have the power to convince the national government to implement some of their recommendations.

The panel says it is in the process of trying to set up a meeting with the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) and the Department of Transport to hear their side of the e-tolls debate.

The panel also says Sanral owes it to the country's democracy to tell the truth and clarify the financial status of the multi-billion rand project.

Nkondo says the roads agency's opinion on the matter is extremely critical and he called on them to be open about its position.

"Sanral would be doing our democracy good by presenting its case openly as it carries a huge mandate."

Meanwhile, anger and frustration dominated discussions held yesterday by the Gauteng e-tolls assessment panel in Soweto.

The panel heard submissions made by business, labour and civil organisations and now wants the public to submit their testimonies how the multibillion rand project is affecting their lives.

Residents attending the public discussions at the Orlando Community Hall told the panel how the multibillion rand system is on the brink of destroying their business and families.

No one attending the public consultation process in Soweto argued in favour of the e-tolling system.

The controversial e-tolling system went live on 3 December after months of legal wranglings, protests and calls for civil disobedience.

Click here for the e-toll public meetings schedule.