Editor – The recent presentation of the findings of the Gauteng e-toll review panel by Premier David Makhura and his team was very instructive. The focus was the Premier’s open acknowledgement of the tension faced by political decision-makers in a democracy – between reliance on statistical evidence in support of a policy, on the one hand, and how people may perceive and feel about a policy, on the other.
Both sides of this dilemma were presented. Firstly, the intense sense of disempowerment and imposition felt by many sectors of society was clearly presented. But also presented was research evidence that showed all alternative funding options to e-tolls have a worsening effect on congestion and between four and seven times greater impact on the lowest-income people, than e-tolling alone. This is indeed a conundrum. The objective evidence supports the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s analysis completely, while the subjective evidence vindicates the concerns of many that e-tolling is an unacceptable imposition.
What to do? The Premier and his team made it clear that they are still in listening mode and accept that, even though a decision is going to have to be made, a solution that does not embody a consensus position will not work.
Ultimately, it seems, what is needed is an ‘eyes wide open’ solution that may be slightly different from the existing situation but in which people understand that there will be some negative consequences.
Makhura appeared to be inviting the public to examine the facts with him and assist him in arriving at the best compromise between objective and subjective realities. Only this may satisfy objectors; and if it means worse congestion and the poor being burdened more, this would be the consequence of informed consent rather than (what to some has felt like) an ‘eyes wide shut’ institutional imposition.