Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi says that people who have paid their e-tolls over the years will have their money refunded.
Speaking to 702 on Tuesday (3 January), the premier said that the decision on whether or not to refund Gauteng motorists was one of the key issues that led to the delay of the e-tolling system being scrapped on 31 December 2022 as planned.
He said that the full scrapping of e-tolls in Gauteng is a legislative process that necessitates regulation changes through the publishing of a gazette – but there have been differences between the national and provincial governments on the details.
Among these differences is what to do with the money owed by motorists on their bills currently, as well as what to do with motorists who have been diligently paying their e-tolls over the years.
While the social victory over e-tolls has been made clear – the system will definitely be scrapped – all the other details have financial and tax implications for the province, which need to be ironed out, he said.
“We hope it is done within the next 14 days before the state of the province address,” Lesufi said.
The premier said that 95% of the issues around e-tolling had been sorted out, with the government making the decision to refund road users who have been paying e-tolls.
The system has a compliance rate of 17%, so the number of users is not that large, but the refund amount is sitting at R6.9 billion, Lesufi said, which is not insignificant.
“It’s clear we have to refund people. We will refund people who have paid. The outstanding debate is the manner in which they will be refunded,” the premier said.
Lesufi said the government is mulling whether or not it will be a cash refund or a refund that will credit road users so they can avoid paying any other tolls or services until the money is paid up.
Many of the compliant road users are businesses and freight companies, as well as foreigners who preferred the convenience of e-tolls over manual payments. A decision on the matter will be made and announced during the state of the province address later this month, he said.
Despite a looming refund for compliant users, the matter of Gauteng’s e-toll debt remains.
Lesufi said that the 30% committed by the province to pay off the debt amounts to around R12 billion and that this needs to be paid. The province is currently negotiating favourable terms for the repayment, with the premier hoping for a 20-year payment period.
“This will give us some breathing room,” he said. “This way, we can use various mechanisms to raise revenue.”
While the method to raise the revenue is being determined, the premier hinted at some of the mechanisms available, including using existing tax laws. Some options include:
Lesufi said that nothing has been decided as yet, but when the decision is made, the provincial government will consult widely with residents.
“There are various mechanisms, but we don’t want to commit the same mistake as e-tolls of imposing a transaction without consulting. At the beginning of this year, now, we will be unleashing our consultative process with the people of Gauteng,” he said.