Sanral recently announced its decision to grant a temporal reprieve for those who owe it outstanding charges in using its toll road system in Gauteng.
Sanral’s temporal decision raises more than eyebrows since its decision firstly cannot be justified given its debt-exposure is the subject matter. Its decision is difficult to make sense of particularly from a business point of view. Now if Sanral’s decision cannot be justified can the claim be made that its decision is political, and what does this mean? Well, we are in an elections season, not just any elections but one that threatens a different outcome to the previous five elections before, that saw the ANC cruising to victories of an average of 62%.
No sooner had Sanral made its announcement when the colourful finance minister Tito Mboweni in announcing the new SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter in typical Mboweni style dared to share his disdain with Sanral’s decision. Mboweni went further to publicly instruct Sanral to retract its decision and subsequent statement, in the aftermath of the Sanral announcement a dishonest debate unfolded. I hold no brief for Mboweni, with whom I have publicly differed on many occasions, yet I agree with him on this score.
Perhaps the problem with the current debate around the reprieve is the dishonesty many including Sanral make themselves guilty of. It appears some chose to attack Mboweni for his expressed views on the Sanral reprieve less from a common sense point but rather from a blackmail stance. The ANC Gauteng Province over time proved consistent as a staunch lobbyist for the removal of the e-tolls, it could never convince the ANC National Office to adopt its recommendation for the E-tolls solutions.
Let us accept the ANC Gauteng Province since before 2014 registered their convictions in de- campaigning of its then-president Jacob Zuma when it accused him and the e-tolls in combination for the poor performance of Gauteng. This issue was always a dishonest one because it flagrantly attempted to exonerate Gauteng ANC leadership thus not owning up to their role in its poor performance.
It can be argued the Gauteng Leadership’s disdain and open dislike of the person of former president Zuma saw itself willing to surrender over 400000 votes to the EFF, something it to this day cannot regain as the 2016 Municipal Elections showed. In ignorance and factional mind sought to punish Zuma. It can be accepted that ANC Gauteng Province finds itself in an invidious position, facing the real threat of not leading post-May 9, hence it adopted this desperate and emotional stance on this matter.
Tripartite Alliance members who have an issue with Mboweni on this score are just as dishonest when they attack Mboweni lumping several of his previous comments with this one, to confuse the issue at stake. Another dimension of the alliance bigotry is laid bare in this that they naturally give the minister of transport Blade Nzimande a free pass and not insisting on him giving direction from an ANC national position.
Beyond the wild emotions, essentially of blackmail, the elephant in the room remains, what is the official ANC policy on the Gauteng E-tolls system? Was Mboweni, therefore wrong to venture his opinion and public critique of Sanral’s less explained and bordering on an irrational decision? I don’t think so. Despite the strong Gauteng lobbying and advocacy, the ANC at the national office level has defended the E-tolls existence. How Sanral went about to announce this ‘reprieve’ or temporal suspension naturally solicits questions on its motivation for its reprieve particularly in this season.
While I remain opposed to the e-toll system as implemented in Gauteng, yet that opposition cannot simply celebrate the decision of SANRAL. The biggest challenge is the glaring political motives of Sanral. It is as if Sanral’s decision is particularly aimed to help a certain candidacy. One may rightfully have had more respect for SANRAL if it never was duped into this clearly political decision since this renders its announcement dishonest and defines the organisation willing to be a political player.
This Sanral dishonesty plays out in three ways. Firstly the so-called temporary reprieve cannot be justified from a business point of view. Secondly, the decision creates more confusion because it fails to explain why Sanral in this particular period opts to extend a reprieve. Since we know its a temporal reprieve we must ask when in the future it will be revisited. We may surmise after the elections. Thirdly, the decision proves insensitive to those who have been religiously paying their e-toll fees and charges. How does this reprieve correspond to those who have already paid? Lastly, the dishonesty of the SANRAL decision introduces us to space and scenario to conclude it is an entity open for manipulation by political interest, and agenda.
Is SANRAL’s decision a means to an end? Meaning is this SANRAL’s contribution to a Ramaphosa led ANC campaign for re-election? There is little doubt that the ANC stands to benefit directly from this decision because could, with this, it claims lost ground where a litany of negative issues threatens its grip on a national ballot. In a season where Eskom load-shedding stage 4, Bosasa corruption accusations against both demons and angels es are made. While it can be argued this is for the ANC benefit, we also know that there is a claim of its president being more popular than the organisation. Hence SANRAL’s reprieve is an organisation doing its piece to advance the Ramaphosa Campaign to SA presidency, less for the ANC.
Besides the claims of an ANC that is apparently cleaning up, with a slew of commissions and investigations, the ANC is simply not in a good space to claim it will equal its previous success in the national ballot.
Sanral’s reprieve on another score attempts assisting the ANC with its internal incongruence on the subject matter. It exonerates the ANC from leading in communicating its national position on E-tolls. With this reprieve, it appears a deal is made between the ANC and SANRAL to deceive the South African masses.