SANRAL again expects its propaganda to be swallowed

JOHANNESBURG – Although it would not be accurate to say that Justice Project South Africa is in the least bit surprised at SANRAL’s latest disrespectful propaganda stunt contained in its media release of today, it would be accurate to say that we are not impressed by it. 

SANRAL has NOT “remained silent” on the Gauteng e-tolls review panel as is being suggested by some. To the contrary, it has previously categorically stated that it will not co-operate with the panel.   

For SANRAL to now come out with a hi-jack tactic stating that “The Board of Directors of the South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL) sent an 8-page communique to Gauteng Premier David Makhura prior to the commencement of the 15-member panel’s hearings” is disingenuous at best.  “Has SANRAL not heard of following up and/or addressing communications to the entity involved?” asked JPSA’s national chairperson, Howard Dembovsky, “When I wrote to the panel asking to make a representation to it on behalf of JPSA, I got a response within hours and we were the first civic organisation to get to speak and make a written submission to the panel on Monday 1 September” he continued. 

SANRAL again chooses to use words like “misinformation, propaganda and belligerence” in its media release today, while it is the one guilty of engaging in “misinformation, propaganda and belligerence”.  SANRAL seems to continually forget that, despite it not being a government department, it is a State Owned Enterprise and is therefore accountable to the people – not the other way around. 

SANRAL has already been found to be engaging in false advertising by the Advertising Standards Authority, its claims have been refuted in parliamentary answers provided by the Minister of Transport and it and its spokespeople have used insulting and defamatory language by calling their opponents by calling people “hustlers” and telling people to “raise their IQs”, etc. There can be nothing more “belligerent” than State employees insulting members of the public, threatening them with criminal records, etc. given the fact that the word “belligerent” means “hostile or aggressive” and SANRAL’s approach has been both hostile and aggressive to anyone who doesn't buy into its stories. 

Furthermore, SANRAL is again showing its contempt for due democratic processes and the public it claims to serve by once again attempting to hi-jack the process by addressing the Gauteng e-tolls review panel through the media instead of having the guts to make its representations to the panel itself. 

SANRAL is again referring to the outright lie that “the fuel levy cannot be ring-fenced” that it and Treasury has been perpetrating since this debate began.  The RAF levy is completely separate to the “fuel levy” and has been more than successful in financing the Road Accident Fund.  The RAF does not “collect the fuel levy or the RAF” either, the fuel wholesalers and Treasury do and it is then allocated to the RAF.  

What’s more is that Section 34(1)(b) of the SANRAL Act clearly states that: “The Agency is funded and provided with capital from the levies on petrol and distillate fuel to be paid to the Agency in compliance with or in terms of any law by or in terms of which that levy is imposed” and yet SANRAL chooses to focus solely on its legalised Ponzi Scheme of bond sales, where investors are offered an extremely lucrative return on their investment. 

The impressive piece of architecture that the SANRAL Central Operations Centre is housed in is largely comprised of glass and as the saying goes, “people in glass houses  should not throw stones.”

SANRAL’s Media Release:

 

SANRAL Board requested audience with Gauteng Premier on the e-tolling matter

 

Pretoria, 17 September 2014. The Board of Directors of the South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL) sent an 8-page communique to Gauteng Premier David Makhura prior to the commencement of the 15-member panel’s hearings.

“We took a pro-active step and communicated our position on this matter. We also requested an audience with the Premier to understand his position and exchange views on how, together we can address the challenges of funding road infrastructure without it being at the expense of social infrastructure. Perceptions that we were not prepared to enter into dialogue are therefore unfortunate,” said SANRAL Acting Board Chairperson Dudu Nyamane. 

As for a presentation by SANRAL to the panel established by Premier Makhura, the agency could not make such as the Board is guided by the SANRAL and National Roads Act, Act 7 of 1998, and is ultimately accountable and responsible to the Shareholder (the national Minister of Transport) for the affairs of the agency. This means that the position has always been clear: the user-pays principle is a national policy which was implemented with the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. 

“We do not take instructions from any political party, as was recently reported in the media, but from the Shareholder and the relevant legislation governing SANRAL. We are an implementing agency of government,” clarified Nyamane. 

The Board expressed its sincere gratitude to all road users – individuals and companies – that have done the right thing by registering for e-tolls, and/or paying what they owe for the use of the world-class roads between Johannesburg and Pretoria. 

“Do not be misled by the detractors. By registering and paying, you are making it possible for SANRAL to continue to fulfil its mandate by building and maintaining world-class quality roads. 

“The user-pays principle is a fair system that has made it possible to improve the vital roads of Gauteng – the economic dynamo of South Africa. To also bring sanity to the question of SANRAL and tolling: our portfolio is made up as follows: 85% non-toll, 14% toll and 1% e-toll. It is unfortunate that a single percentage of SANRAL’s work has been the cause of much misinformation, propaganda and belligerence - to such an extent that at times it threatened the mandate of such an important national asset,” averred Nyamane. 

SANRAL’s endeavours reach beyond the borders of South Africa, too. Explains Nyamane, “SANRAL’s road network is recognised world-wide as being amongst the best internationally and its staff allocate a considerable amount of time transferring these sought after skills to many countries, particularly on the African continent.” 

 She also clarified that the agency gets an allocation from National Treasury to look after the non-toll national roads (85% of its network) and also raises money from capital markets to fund its toll operations which constitute 15 percent of the agency’s road portfolio. 

“Therefore, the argument directed at SANRAL that it should fund the GFIP through a fuel levy is misdirected. SANRAL does not collect the fuel levy. Besides, Treasury has explained why it does not ring-fence the fuel levy and why, from an equity point of view, a decision was taken to fund the GFIP through tolling,” she concluded. 

//ends  

Issued on behalf of SANRAL

For further queries, kindly contact: pressoffice@nra.co.za

Tips for having YOUR voice heard at the Gauteng e-tolls review panel public meetings

Many people have asked JPSA what they should expect out of attending public meetings held by the Gauteng e-tolls review panel and whilst we acknowledge that it is not our place to speak on behalf of the panel, we equally feel that too little information exists in the public domain on this issue. 

South Africans are generally not used to participating in democratic processes, beyond making a mark on a ballot paper from time to time and as sad as this fact is, we feel encouraged that some people are now starting to participate and it is in light of this that we feel obliged to provide some guidance on how to do so.

It is no secret that JPSA actively opposes e-tolling, but this post is drafted and attempts to present the information in as unbiased a manner as possible. Our inputs come from both, our understanding of the purpose of the panel and its public meetings, plus our observations from attending the meeting in Orlando, Soweto on Monday 15 September 2014.

Purpose of the panel

The purpose of the Gauteng e-tolls review panel is neither to promote nor to knock e-tolling as a method of building roads infrastructure and the formally appointed panel members thereon have been tasked with assessing the socioeconomic impact of e-tolling in an unbiased fashion. They are receiving inputs from anyone and any organisation with a material interest in either promoting or opposing this model. 

Public meetings

The primary purpose of the public meetings is for the panel to hear from ordinary people and representatives of groups of people with a common interest - like NGOs, etc. It is not for political parties to bus contingents of their supporters adorned in party political attire to come and make political ideology or electioneering speeches. 

JPSA respectfully asks that the political parties wait for their turn, which has been catered for, to make representations to the panel and allows the public, some of whom may indeed be their supporters, to have their say as individuals.

Your chances of getting having your "voice" heard

Your chances of actually getting hold of the microphone to have your say are dependent on the volume of people who attend these meetings. It stands to reason that the better attended the meeting is - the lesser your chance is of getting hold of the microphone. But that is not all that limits your chances to speak. Some people have taken it upon themselves to deliver lengthy speeches in their quest to have their voice heard. 

How much time will you get to speak?

The panel tries to control "microphone hogs" by saying upfront that people should keep their comments to a maximum of 3 minutes but our observation has been that some people choose to ignore this and, even when respectfully asked to wrap up, continue talking long after their time allocation has elapsed. Please don't do this - it is both, selfish and contemptuous of others whose voices also need to be heard. 

If you have a lot to say

If you have a lot to say - and many of us do - then commit your submission to writing and hand it into the panel on your arrival or departure. The panel even supplies a form allowing you to make a written submission, and this is included in the information pack you receive on arrival but we would encourage everyone to author their written submission prior to attending. 

Quite apart from the fact that many people do not possess the necessary public speaking skills to get the message across without waffle; a written submission gives you the opportunity to:

  1. Fully articulate everything you want to say;
  2. Edit and rework your submission until it represents precisely what you want to say; and
  3. Present facts and traceable references that is helpful to supporting your argument.

By far however, a written submission guarantees that your voice will be heard, regardless of whether you get hold of the microphone or not. If you wish to supplement your written submission after you have handed it in, you are entitled to do so.


Back your claims up with facts


It is not helpful, nor will it lend credence to your submission to make things up or rely on anecdotal "evidence". If you are going to make a claim asserting to being a matter of fact, make certain that you provide real and traceable evidence to your claims and assertions or they will most likely be ignored in the final analysis.

 

Prepare your verbal submission


Before you stick your hand up and get hold of the microphone, know exactly what it is that you want to say. Try to resist the temptation to make it up as you go along and in particular, try to avoid the temptation to then tailor your speech on what another speaker has had to say just because you didn't think of it ahead of time.

 

If you have made a written submission, do not read it out aloud. Rather make a separate summary of the key points in your written submission and speak to that. Above all, keep it short, punchy and to the point and leave the waffle and rhetoric out of it. That said; feel free to be as passionate, emotional and expressive about it as you wish.

 

Address the panel


Much like a court, you are not there to address the public who attend the meetings; you are there to address the panel itself. After all, it is the panel and not your fellow citizens that will draft and submit a report to the Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura at the end of all of the processes. Do not try and solicit support or applause from your fellow citizens. They will clap if they feel like doing so and no-one can stop them.

 

Keep it decent


If you are fortunate enough to get hold of the microphone, don't give the panel members a mouthful and accuse them of being "puppets" etc. Similarly, don't insult anyone whose views differ from yours. If you are angry, direct your anger at those entities responsible for your anger and don't shoot the messenger.

 

What the Constitution says

 

It is a popular notion that the Constitution guarantees everyone's right to freedom of speech. Unless you are a Member of Parliament, it doesn't in the sense that many people choose to interpret its provisions. Anything you say can be held against you, particularly if it is defamatory, constitutes hate speech or crimen injuria (offensive language).

 

Section 16(1) of the Constitution guarantees your right to freedom of expression and is limited by Section 16(2) and other provisions in the Constitution. You should avoid relying on anything you do not fully understand and we encourage everyone to read and fully understand the Constitution.

 

Are these meetings all a waste of time?


No-one can say for sure whether the Gauteng e-tolls review panel is or is not a waste of time and effort, and indeed, public money, especially in light of the conflicting stances that have been taken and expressed by SANRAL and the Minister of Transport and the Gauteng Provincial Government.


We do not believe that it would be helpful to anyone to automatically assume that the Gauteng e-tolls review panel is nothing more than another Public Relations exercise. Instead, such judgments should be reserved until the entire process has run its course and an outcome has been attained. We encourage all citizens to actively participate in this exercise and have their voices heard and we encourage all those in power to seriously consider what people have to say.


What does JPSA expect out of this process?


In light of everything that has gone before when it comes to e-tolling, we do not expect e-tolls to be summarily scrapped at the end of this process. We also do not expect to get roads infrastructure "for free" as has been suggested by the pro-e-tolling lobby and their propagandists. 


What we do however expect is that this matter will finally be put to a referendum asking motorists how they would prefer to pay for roads infrastructure development, thus providing all those who are expected to pay the opportunity to democratically determine their future (and present) financial obligations. Allowing those who are not motor vehicle owners to skew the results of such a referendum would not be a democratic process at all, given the fact that South Africa's voters roll and vehicle registry do not even remotely resemble one another.


It would be naïve at best for anyone to suggest that the public meetings being held by the Gauteng e-tolls review panel will provide the opportunity to all people to make their voice heard and at the end of the day, everyone affected by this should be given the inalienable right to have their voice heard.

* As stated in the preamble, this post is independently provided by JPSA in the public interest and is not to be interpreted as being sanctioned or commissioned by the Gauteng e-tolls review panel, the Gauteng Provincial government or any entity other than JPSA. If any entity or person wishes to endorse it, they may do so by contacting us. Anyone who wishes to republish it is more than welcome to do so, provided that JPSA is acknowledged therein and it remains in its unaltered form.


JPSA disappointed in Minister Peters’ announcement on e-tolls review panel

Transport minister Dipuo Peters says her department will release a detailed breakdown on money owed to Sanral in outstanding e-tolling fees. Picture: EWNJOHANNESBURG – Justice Project South Africa is disappointed to say the least that Minister Dipuo Peters has chosen to come out in public and rubbish the e-tolls review panel on the socio-economic impact of e-tolling in Gauteng without so much as letting this democratic process run its course and make representations and/or recommendations to the Premier and thereafter to National Government. 

Neither Premier Makhura nor the panel have created any impression of any predetermined outcome and it is disingenuous of Minister Peters to suggest that it has.  You simply can’t blame people for holding out the hope that National Government may come to its senses and finally listen to the people who are not saying “we don’t want to pay for roads” but are saying “this particular cash cow doesn’t want to nor can it constantly be milked until it bleeds”. 

Furthermore, no-one is denying that Provincial Government has no authority to override National Government policy; however South Africa is on a very slippery slope when National Government takes a decision to again stick its fingers in its ears, while leaving one finger free to flip in the direction of the public who are affected by its decisions and policies.  In so doing, Minister Peters has given credence to claims by naysayers that the e-tolls review panel is nothing more than eyewash. 

Last week, JPSA presented to the e-tolls review panel what we see as the looming socio-economic disaster of SANRAL, the NPA and National Government creating a nation of unemployable, over-indebted, artificial criminals through prosecuting them for non-payment of e-tolls.  This is of course assuming that they are able to convict anyone at all; however the fact remains that if they don’t it won’t be long before everyone stops paying e-tolls, given the fact that there would be no penalty for failing to pay. 

If this is not averted, sooner or later a showdown is going to occur and there will be no winners in that showdown. The economy of Gauteng and South Africa as a whole will find itself in ruins and dreams of sub-6% unemployment by 2030 will be shattered.