Jacob Zuma belittled the rest of Africa when defending a now much hate Road Toll, named eTolls.
He said building roads in SA is not the same as repairing a cattle track in Malawi or Botswana.
Gauteng’s controversial eTolls weighed heavily on
the ANC’s Manifesto Forum at the University of
Witwatersrand on Monday night.
“Gauteng has built many kilometres of new eight- to
10-lane freeways built at a cost of about 20 billion
rand,” President Jacob Zuma told those gathered.
“This is more than our national roads budget for one
year.”
Zuma sought to justify the eTolls system as befitting
the stature of Johannesburg as the economic capital
of the country.
“Gauteng is the heart of the South African industry,”
he said. “Gauteng is not like Pietermaritzburg.”
Zuma was speaking at the seventh public
consultation on the ruling party’s manifesto in
Gauteng so far. Its target audience, professionals and
business people, distinguished this particular forum.
“What are some of the things you think we should
change?” ANC Gauteng Chairperson Paul Mashatile
asked the audience before assuring those assembled
that their views would be reflected in the manifesto.
But as Mashatile encouraged the audience to “talk to
us about what is in your hearts and your minds”,
President Zuma acknowledged the swirl of opinions
on eTolls in Gauteng but did not back down.
“The roads are to be tolled to pay back the money we
borrowed to build the freeways to make the economy
flow in Johannesburg. The principle of user pay has to
apply to complement the costs incurred by
government,” Zuma said.
He did, however, indicate that he might make a
concession for students to be exempt of the
proposed tolling system.
“It is a matter we may have look at,” he said.
However, Zuma stressed that the eTolling system
was not an aberration but rather a world standard.
“This is what all economies in the world do,” he said.
But then there was this curious remark from the
president: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa. It’s
not some national road in Malawi.”
And while South Africa’s Department of International
Relations and Co-Operation will be hard pressed to
explain Zuma’s comments, albeit meant light-
heartedly, in the light of the “African Agenda”, Zuma
has now waded into the eToll debate himself once
more.
He said the suggested alternatives to eTolls were
flawed in that they unfairly tax the rest of the
country.
“It is not fair to make the whole of South Africa pay
for Gauteng’s road use by taxing everyone’s petrol
more or put more burden on the already strained
fiscus,” Zuma said.
“Johannesburg is what makes South Africa what it
is,” Zuma said. “When we talk about eTolls we act as
if there is only one road to Pretoria. Gauteng must
develop. It can’t stand in one place. It can’t be like
Rustenburg.”
Zuma also criticised the legal challenges to eTolls
saying it presented a new trend in which South
Africans refused to abide by legal judgements.
[Ahem. – Ed]
“Once the court says this is our decision, as citizens
we should abide by it,” he said.
Zuma also sent a clear warning to detractors of the
eTolls within the ANC’s tripartite alliance.
“We can’t make it look like a political issue,” he said.
“You might even join the opposition without realising
it.”
“Let us not exaggerate this point,” Zuma opined
about the effect of the effect of eTolls on the working
class.
Earlier, when Wits Vice Chancellor, Adam Habib,
welcomed the president and Mashatile, he cautioned
the ANC bigwigs to expect a rigorous discussion.
Zuma, however, was not seriously challenged. He
was spared the treatment his deputy Cyril
Ramaphosa received in the same venue recently.
Zuma, instead, was treated to a rather politely
framed sample of the various competing ideas,
opinions and suggestions on what the ANC ought to
be doing.
Responding to a call for the ANC to scrap BEE in
favour of enterprise development, Zuma said, “This
approach was thoroughly discussed by the ANC for
us to arrive here, to address the legacy of exclusion
of black people from the economy of this country.”
He acknowledged, though, that BEE has not been
entirely successful in ensuring the participation of all
black people in the country.
“But it has worked to some degree,” he argued. “And
that’s why we have been looking at it, how do we
enhance it?”
On the legacy of black exclusion from the formal
economy, Zuma said, “We can’t not deal with it.”
Still, he was upbeat.
“Next year we’ll be celebrating 20 years and my view
is that when we celebrate 30 years we should have
reached a point where we no longer have to talk
about black empowerment, or whatever.”
“We would have gone over the issue of correcting the
issue of the racial structure of the economy. It is
absolutely important. And therefore we need to give
ourselves a time frame to think we must make it
work and really empower people,” he said.
Zuma referred to the massacre at Marikana, saying it
offered questions as to how South Africans dealt with
themselves while facing internal divisions rather an
external threat like Apartheid.
“To me it challenges us: how do we want our
democracy and freedom to look?” Zuma asked.
Indeed, sir, we look forward to seeing our democracy
transform to better facilitate the freedoms of all
South Africans.

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