• IEC expects to release election results by Sunday
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Scrapping e-tolls: too late or perhaps not, to save ANC in Gauteng?
E-toll gantry at night.
Image Credits : SABC News


Reading Time: 4 minutes

The public defiance of e-tolls and its scrapping serves as a reminder that public policy processes in a representative democracy are sacred. While elections give legitimacy to government, public engagement lends credibility to policymaking.

The abolition of e-tolls on April 11, 2024, may have come too late for the ruling party to reap significant political benefits.

However, even if this was to improve the ANC’s performance, motorists are still dealing with the nightmare of e-tolls and its related billing.

According to the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), road users will continue to be responsible for all outstanding e-toll invoices.

Gauteng accounted for a considerable chunk of the ANC’s national vote due to it boasting the largest number of registered voters, approximately 24%.

Some NGOs and opposition political parties believe that e-toll scrapping would not prevent the ANC from imploding in Gauteng, because people remember that the ANC imposed the e-toll system. People are aware that the ANC eventually gave in to pressure from political parties and civil organizations. The ANC-led government had to face the fact that the e-tolling system was steamrolled without reported regard for public input by the province’s residents.

The ANC’s provincial leadership was concerned after the party’s electoral fortunes declined by 10.45 percentage points from 64.04% in 2009 to 53.59% in 2014; and by 3.40-percentage points to 50.19% in the 2019 general elections.

The poor electoral performance collates with e-tolls forcefully enforced a year before the 2014 general election.

In 2018, the Gauteng ANC urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to drop e-tolls, but the national government dismissed the province’s request.

Going into the 2019 general elections, the provincial ANC was concerned that the party would be punished at the polls again, and that its followers would abandon it.

In 2019, it almost lost South Africa’s economic powerhouse.

According to StatsSA’s September 2023 provincial GDP data, Gauteng is the province with the biggest contribution to GDP growth. The province accounted for R33 of every R100 generated by the South African economy. Gauteng’s economy is larger than those of KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape combined. The second and third largest provincial economies are KwaZulu-Natal (15.9%) and the Western Cape (13.9%), respectively. Gauteng also has a large provincial budget, which amounts to R165.8 billion for 2024/25 and is likely to climb to R171.5 billion in 2025/26 and R176.8 billion in 2026/27, according to the provincial Treasury.

There is a widespread belief that if the ANC loses Gauteng, it will cement the eventual loss of the ANC’s grip on power, particularly economic power.

Poor public participation results in illegitimate policy decisions

E-tolling emerged as a result of the government’s reported dismissive attitude toward the need for good and reasonable policymaking, believing that citizens will simply accept and comply with irrational and frequently ineffective policies and processes.

E-tolling was launched in 2013 and met with immediate opposition from the public, who complained about a lack of engagement.

The gazetted e-toll scrapping serves as a crucial lesson for parties elected to government, emphasizing the importance of transparency, accountability, and good governance in policy decisions.

The defiance represents probably the first taxpayer revolt in democratic South Africa.

Effective public involvement requires complete transparency and easily accessible information to educate the public about the concerns and solutions. The e-tolls policy choice fell short of transparency. It follows that the majority of Gauteng people would have voted against the proposed e-toll, and it would never have been implemented.

When the governing party (ANC), aware of its majority, power, and control, decided to impose its e-tolls plans on Gauteng motorists, it received a stark reminder that representatives in a democracy are not rulers, and that the people ultimately govern through a vote and active citizenship.


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