EWN sat down with the roads agency’s CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma for a wide-ranging interview.
Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma. Picture: @SANRAL_za/Twitter
JOHANNESBURG – The South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) has admitted that its revenue collection through tolled roads dropped to unprecedented levels during the nationwide lockdown, resulting in a loss of more than R640 million.
Eyewitness News sat down with the roads agency’s CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma for a wide-ranging interview.
During Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s State of the Province Address, he said that the provincial government had made a strong and persuasive case to national structures that e-tolling should be scrapped.
More than six years after the gantries went live, there’s still no consensus about the future of the contentious system.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many businesses right in the pocket and it was no different for Sanral.
The lockdown period resulted in fewer cars on the highways, which meant fewer motorists to cough up under the gantries.
Macozoma said that during level 5 hard lockdown, traffic levels dipped to only 25% which meant that 75% of the normal traffic was not on the roads during that time.
This cost Sanral more than R300 million in projected revenue.
“At level 4, we calculated a further loss of revenue of some R140 million. Under level 3, we still suffered quite a significant loss at R200 million,” Macozoma said.
Sanral has been gripped in financial difficulty with many motorists refusing to pay their e-tolling bills in Gauteng for several years, with people either unable to pay or simply unwilling to fork out for a system they did not support.
The economic crisis as a result of COVID-19 has pushed Sanral even further down the financial cliff.
OUTSTANDING E-TOLL BILLS
At the same time, Sanral said that outstanding e-toll bills were hitting the company hard, especially under lockdown, with the roads agency only managing to collect about R40 million a month from motorists in Gauteng.
Macozoma told EWN that Sanral was used to collecting about R60 million a month. The agency estimated that only 20% of motorists who used tolled roads in the province actually paid their bills.
“It’s a bad situation. It’s not only bad for Sanral, it’s also bad for Gauteng province,” Macozoma said.
While many Gauteng motorists could not pay their e-toll bills and others refused to fork out, Macozoma said that the agency was unable to maintain the roads, which were deteriorating.
“If you go now from the airport to Pretoria, you will see just how the R21 is deteriorating at very unacceptable levels,” Macozoma said. “We don’t have a budget to maintain this network the way that it should be because we are not getting the revenue and we are not able to go to the bond market to borrow monies when we don’t know when to pay back the money.”
Macozoma said that without the necessary funds, Sanral had to postpone maintenance on some of the busiest road networks which could end up costing more.
He warned that the cost of that delay would once again be passed on to road users.
“It comes back 18 times folded if you defer it, for instance, by a period of three years. And the brunt will be felt by South Africans,” Macozoma said.
The future of the e-tolling system is now at Cabinet level.
It is not yet clear when or even if this six-year-long battle will finally be resolved.