South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) CEO Nazir Alli on Thursday appealed to “all South Africans” to respect the decision by the country’s highest court to allow for tolling to continue on Gauteng’s freeways.
Speaking at a Transport Forum in Johannesburg, Alli also “sounded a word of caution” that should this not happen, it was possible the country could “go down a slippery slope” where “the rule of law” no longer mattered.
Alli’s comments followed the Constitutional Court’s September decision to set aside the interim interdict, granted to the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance in April, preventing Sanral from tolling the highways built under the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP).
“We must, at some stage, make a decision to move on,” he noted.
He said it was important to listen to the South African public, but noted that Sanral would not be able to “satisfy everyone”.
“Has anyone reflected on what it would mean not to have the roads?”
He said it was important to question how South Africa would built road infrastructure, when the pot of money supposed to fund it, was “very small, not overfilling, in fact, fairly empty”, while it also had to subsidise, for example, public transport, which he regarded as support to the country’s poor.
“Do we keep on subsidising public transport, or do we cut it to build better roads?”
Alli noted that the last round of large-scale road building happened in the 1970s. He added that the road construction industry was able to “absorb people” that are often deemed unemployable owing to their lack of skills.
“Yet, we want to turn around and stop this industry from functioning because we all want to live off someone else?”
Alli added that many kilometres of South African roads were not tolled.
He also noted that the GFIP toll-road project created many skills in South Africa, such as in the information technology sector, while it also allowed for the development of a new type of concrete.
In the end, argued Alli, government did not have enough money to maintain, upgrade and built all the new roads required.
He said it was also important for South Africans to consider the links between different areas of the economy, and how the effect on one can spill over to other areas.
He urged those still opposing the GFIP project to “take off their blinkers” and “take a broader view” of the situation.